Book Review: Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

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Author: Zoltan Rona, MD, MSc
Publisher: Books Alive
Book Publication: 2010

In the last decade or so, we have been led to believe that the sun is our enemy. But according to physician and complementary therapies specialist, Dr. Zoltan Rona, this sun phobia has created the very serious, potentially dangerous problem of vitamin D deficiency. Estimates suggest that 70 to 90% of North Americans do not get enough vitamin D. And research is linking this deficit to a vast array of chronic health issues.

Even though vitamin D is currently dominating media headlines, consumers are still looking for answers regarding the uses, efficacy, and optimum dosages of vitamin D, as well as reassurances that increasing exposure to sunlight, the best source of vitamin D, will help, not harm. In Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin, Dr. Rona provides the reader with everything they should know about this life saving vitamin.

He begins by explaining some vitamin D basics: it is actually more of a hormone than a vitamin; we cannot get sufficient amounts from the foods we eat (we need to be exposed to sunshine or use supplements); and vitamin D is essential to perform various vital functions, while a deficiency causes major problems in numerous tissues and organs, leading to disease (over “thirty-six” types).

Sun paranoia is tackled next. Dr. Rona suggests that rather than staying indoors, covering up, or slathering on toxic sunscreens “most people need ten to twenty minutes of sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.” And contrary to popular belief, it is UVA light that is responsible for skin damage, and not UVB (these rays create vitamin D). This is crucial information, because the assumption is often made that both are dangerous to the skin, and those particular hours of sun exposure the most damaging.

When it comes to supplements, there are always questions about effective and safe dosages. Dr. Rona handles these questions forthrightly. “I consider 10,000 IU to be the optimal daily dose of vitamin D. At that dose, I have never seen anyone run into side effects or toxicity symptoms in over thirty years.” However, his medical advice is to have a blood test for your vitamin D levels, and “for all Canadians and Americans living in northern latitudes (above 40 degrees north) to supplement with a bare minimum of 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily during the winter months.”

The last and most comprehensive portion of the book addresses the many illnesses that Dr. Rona (supported by mounting scientific evidence) believes “would either be prevented or improved substantially in people who had optimal vitamin D blood levels.” Study after study is quoted, all revealing a strong link between low levels of vitamin D and certain forms of cancer, MS, cardiovascular disease, epilepsy, depression, asthma, IBS, autism, even the common cold and flu. Conversely, as one cancer study revealed, “taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D reduced or prevented further increases in prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the majority of men with advanced prostate cancer.”

The information found in Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin is fascinating, sometimes quite startling, but most importantly, invaluable. Its content is extremely well-documented, and its message reads loud and clear – most of us are not getting the vitamin D we need. Since reading this book, I have increased my own vitamin D intake and have found a measurable improvement in sleep patterns and mood. As an aid to gaining and maintaining optimal health, it is a must read.


Susannah Kent is a Toronto area Fitness and Healthy Lifestyle Instructor.

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