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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Health Talk: Kids, Go Out And Play!

Aug 01, 2011 11:51AM ● By Dian Freeman, M.A. Certified in Clinical Nutrition

As a child, I remember my mother telling me and my siblings, “Kids, go out and play!” By the tone of exasperation in her voice, her motive may have been to get us out of her hair, but the result was that we received a very important nutrient from the sun: vitamin D. In the last few years, I’ve noticed fewer and fewer kids playing outside, which means that many kids today may be suffering from a lack of this important vitamin.

We most often associate vitamin D with its function in building bones. And it’s true: When combined with calcium and adequate magnesium, vitamin D is an important factor in building strong bones and teeth, which alone should encourage its use. But vitamin D does so much more: It regulates blood sugar, protects the heart and brain, and helps prevent cancer.

A 2007 article in The Star Ledger reports that chronic use of prescription antidepressants and diabetes medications continues to rise among children and young teens. Depression and diabetes are two conditions that can be caused—or made worse—by a vitamin D deficiency. Australian researchers found that people with low vitamin D levels had a 57 percent increased risk of developing Type-2 diabetes compared with participants with blood levels in the recommended range.

As Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, surgeon, author, and educator on nutrition, recently wrote in NewsMax Heath, “Vitamin D3 … has special effects on brain function. Deficiencies can cause mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. A number of studies have shown that low vitamin D3 levels increase one’s risk of major depression.” In addition, in a report published in The New York Times, scientists speculate that Vitamin D3 may stop skin cancer cells from turning malignant. The Journal of Epidemiology reported that women who spent more time in the sun as a teen had 29 percent less chance of getting breast cancer than those who spent only an hour a day.

These studies are based on sun exposure, not light exposure. Those wearing a chemical sun block aren’t considered to be getting sun exposure. Personally, I would not eat anything cooked in chemicals, like plastic; by the same token I would not “cook” chemicals on my skin. Natural oils like coconut, almond or even olive oil would be a better choice to keep the skin lubricated.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin; it requires skin oils to be produced. People on a low-fat diet are often at risk from not absorbing sufficient quantities of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, E and D. Since the coating of our nerves are up to 75 percent fat, a low-fat diet with low levels of vitamin D absorption can lead or add to nerve damage and neurological problems. A study published in NewsMax Health reports that “People who spent more time in the sun and had higher vitamin D levels were less likely to get multiple sclerosis.”

When taking supplements, know that vitamin D2 is not a good source, often requiring 10 to 15 times the dosage one would need of vitamin D3. Health shop supplements will normally carry the best version, vitamin D3, while most medical sources of vitamin D use the difficult-to-absorb D2.

When all is said and done, the best natural source of vitamin D is the sun. Humans have been playing and working in the sun for thousands of years; statistically, since we’ve been avoiding the sun and dietary fat, our collective health has never been worse. Of course, direct sunlight should be avoided in the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. It is important to be sensible and not overexpose the skin until it becomes acclimatized. A few days of high-quality antioxidant supplements before sun exposure should prime the skin to handle the sun without burning. People today, including children, have more chemically damaged, immune-deficient and oxidative-stressed skin than our ancestors had. Bringing the skin back up to par by taking the proper nutrients will help the whole body shape up as well.

Food sources of vitamin D include tuna, salmon and egg yolks. Many foods in the dairy and grain families are “fortified” with vitamin D, but I would not count on the quality of vitamins artificially added to these processed foods. I drink raw milk with its natural fat and rarely touch today’s chemically grown grains. So, the next time you see kids playing outside, their moms, exasperated or not, should be commended for sending them out to soak up the rays.

Dian Freeman has a private practice in Morristown, teaches a nutritional certification course, is certified in and practices Ondamed biofeedback, and lectures widely. She is currently enrolled at Drew University to obtain a doctorate in Medical Humanities. Dian may be reached at [email protected] or by visiting

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