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The Amazing Shrinking Woman

Vitamin D and Stop the Presses(!) Because I Agree with Rosie O’Donnell December 8, 2009

Wow. I can honestly say I never thought I’d say this, ever. But I agree with Rosie O’Donnell.

I didn’t trust her at all back in the day when she had a talk show and was obsessed with Tom Cruise. I know Tom Cruise does it for some people, but not for me. I’ve always been more of a Hugh Jackman girl, and if he’s not available, call Clive Owen or Daniel Craig.

But Rosie O said that “exposure to the sun isn’t dangerous,” and I agree. Now, before the skin cancer lynch mob successfully beats down my door, I must clarify my own position on this issue and give some background on my opinion.

This country has a terrible problem with cancer. All types of cancer. This has really puzzled scientists and doctors and all sorts of people who wear white coats to work. But recently, the UC San Diego’s School of Medicine had a lightbulb moment about cancer and a possible cause. They realized that many of the diseases that plague modern society and are often blamed on pollution, plastic, sugar etc etc, might actually be caused by a vitamin D deficiency. (I would normally shorten that to VD, but I’m not feeling that playful tonight.) In fact, the math/science types at UCSD made an entire website devoted to vitamin D deficiency.  I suggest you check it out.

Why does the modern world have such a serious problem with vitamin D?  Because the body makes vitamin D naturally… from sunlight exposure.  We’re known for sitting on our butts inside all day at work until we drive home to sit on our butts inside there.  For one week in the summer we go to the beach and either wear enough sunscreen to make coworkers think we lied about going, or so little that the chef at the seafood restaurant chases us with a pot of boiling water, thinking we’re lobsters.  Neither of these is good, because we should take our sunlight in moderation, because, as my mother says, “the skin never forgets a ray of sun,” or so we’ve been told.

Unfortunately, certain people aren’t privy to as much sunlight as others.  Canadians, for instance, don’t get nearly as much strong sunlight as we southerners do.  Neither do people in Maine, North Dakota, or Michigan.  All of those people have worse cancer problems than those who do get regular sun.

Now I’m not any sort of “back to nature” type, but I do think that earlier people did something right (except in the Middle Ages, when they all died at 25).  They walked around outside, and they ate natural food.  Oreos were hard to come by in the 3rd century.  We should probably take the hint, and do more of what they did, like spending some time outside without sunscreen.

Naturally, when Rosie O said what she did, the skin cancer people grabbed their ropes and ran out the door, then ran back in and slathered on the SPF 120, then ran out again, hot on Rosie’s trail.  They said what she said was “irresponsible.”  I think her flock of seagulls hair cut was more irresponsible than this episode,  but tomato/ tomahto.

Apparently the research is so strong that the Canadian government has recommended that all Canadians take a superdose of the vitamin in order to stave off cancer and other diseases.  It really makes sense, I think.  We’ve switched from spending tons of time outside to almost none in about a century, and consequently, diseases are stalking us.  Consider this: the “flu season.”  Why is it that the flu comes in winter and stays til early spring until it magically disappears?  It’s because people aren’t going outside in the cold winter, and they don’t have any vitamin D to fight off getting sick.  Once the weather improves and it’s nice outside though–wham!  People are out in the sun again, making boatloads of vitamin D, effectively ending the flu season.  Interesting thought, no?

Now I’m not sure I agree with Rosie O entirely, however, because she also says she “lives to tan.”  I’ve never liked lying around in the sun, because I’ve always been afraid that a bug would crawl on me.  But what’s wrong with working in the yard for 30 minutes in the heat of the day?

Whenever I go to the beach and don’t put on too much sunscreen, my skin improves within 2 or 3 days.  I usually don’t have breakouts for a week or more after being in the sun.  This is not to say that we should get burned, though.  Being fair-skinned, I’d have to work up to a tan in 30 minute increments before I could spend more time out without sunscreen.  If you’re going to be in very very strong sun, you should wear sunscreen if you’re starting to burn.

The white lab coat people suggest that we spend 15-20 minutes in the very strong sun every day (with zero sunscreen and at least 40% of the body exposed).  This isn’t always possible, because it gets cold in the winter.  That’s why instead of spending the time outside, you can take vitamin D3 gelcaps to make up for it.  You probably shouldn’t exceed 3000 Iu (international units) a day if you’re getting solar-powered vitamin D, but the jury is still out on exact dosages.  Also, it takes your body about 48 hrs to absorb all the vitamin D from your skin, so when you shower, don’t scrub the areas that were exposed to sun, or else you’ll wash all the vitamin D down the drain.

So that’s something to think about.  People who get vitamin D are far less likely to develop cancer.

Take my own grandfather, for example.  He was a smoker.  When I say “smoker” I mean he was a cigarette with a person attached.  He started smoking when he was about 8 or 9, and did so until his emphysema prevented him in his 80s, but even then he chewed tobacco and smoked a pipe.  He also was a supervisor for Bell South, so he spent all day at work standing in the hot southern sun making sure that workmen put up phone lines correctly.   He was unbelievably tan.  Brown.  If his skin were a trendy paint color it would be “toasted autumn.”  For all that smoking, he never had cancer, or any other non-smoking related disease.  Even when he was retired, he took long walks outside every day.  And he didn’t wear sunscreen, let’s just say that.

So I agree with Rosie O’Donnell.  For once.