We Are Sunshine


Friday, January 30th, 2009

US News & World Report child-health columnist Nancy Shute wrote a column encouraging parents to increase vitamin D intake for children, but repeated errors about “The Sunshine Vitamin” made by a nutritionist.


But Shute herself seems to get it. “How could so many American babies be missing out on this vital nutrient? Here’s the deal: Many new mothers are Vitamin D deficient themselves, and can’t deliver enough D to their babies while breastfeeding. Formula has enough Vitamin D to meet the pediatricians’ goals. But moms who think they are doing the right thing nutritionally be breastfeeding need to give their babies supplemental vitamins, starting right after birth.”

She continued, “I always thought that parents were supposed to try to get vitamins into their kids by emphasizing healthy food, but that gambit doesn’t work as well with Vitamin D. Oily fish contain D; hence the old-time winter remedy of cod liver oil. So does fortified milk. But a child would have to drink a liter of milk a day to get 400 IU¬something that lots of kids, including my own, aren’t about to do. Human skin synthesizes D, but people who live north of Chicago aren’t exposed to enough sunshine from fall through spring to make their quota. People with darker skin, or those who cover themselves up to avoid sun exposure, also can’t make enough D. Then there are the kids who spend almost all day either inside at school or inside watching TV. They could live on the Equator, and they still wouldn’t get enough sun.”

On the other hand, Shute passed along misinformation from Dr. Frank Greer, who leads the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on nutrition, which recently raised its recommendation for daily Vitamin D intake in children from 200 to 400 IU a day. While most vitamin D scientists are calling for 1,000 – 2,000 IU daily, Greer’s recommendations are based on his background in nutritional supplements — not on knowledge of the truly unique nature of vitamin D.

Greer told Shute, “Vitamin D has become the Vitamin E of the 21st century,” explaining that a decade ago E was touted as the miracle vitamin/cancer cure. It took a decade of research to figure out that not only was Vitamin E not a magic bullet, it actually increased the risk of lung cancer.

Smart Tan responded to Shute’s article by pointing out that:

While skepticism is healthy, Greer’s comparison of vitamin D to other vitamin fads falls short because:

  1. Vitamin D is not truly a vitamin — it is a hormone. Unlike every other vitamin it is not obtained naturally through dietary sources. It is obtained naturally through sun exposure to the skin. And the amount of vitamin D our skin makes when it is allowed to do its job naturally is 100 times greater than the amount present in an 8-ounce glass of milk. Not coincidentally, the functions that we now know “The Sunshine Vitamin” performs only happen at levels that are naturally consistent with getting regular sunshine.Here are the numbers:
    10,000-20,000 IU – Vitamin D made from a full-body tan in the sun.
    100 IU – Amount of vitamin D fortified into an 8-ounce glass of whole milk.Sunshine exposure is the body’s only natural source of vitamin D — why else would our bodies have such high capacity to make so much vitamin D, and also have the ability to de-metabolize any extra so that toxicity through natural, UV-induced vitamin D is not possible. In contrast, dietary overdose of vitamin D IS possible (albeit at very high doses) – because our bodies aren’t designed to get it that way naturally. Dietary vitamin D is a surrogate at best for what our body’s know is natural: getting it from UVB in sunshine.
  2. The research connecting vitamin D with positive health outcomes is now overwhelming — hundreds of studies have now established both the mechanism for and the power of the relationship between vitamin D and lower risk of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and many other conditions.
  3. Greer is wrong to minimize vitamin D by comparing it to other vitamins. Whereas EVERY other vitamin is essentially a supplement, D is really more analogous to water, air and food — things to which our bodies naturally are attracted and need.

An excellent source for further information is — an independent non-profit group that started the world’s “D-Action” campaign, supported by the world’s leading vitamin D researchers.

The vitamin D community now supports the following:

  • Vitamin D blood levels of 40-60 ng/ml — natural vitamin D levels.
  • Daily total vitamin D intake of 2,000 IU to maintain those natural levels.

You can get a vitamin D blood test — called a calcidiol test — to measure your levels. offers an accurate, simple test for $30 that you can take at home and mail in as simple as measuring your insulin levels.

To read the story and Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy’s response click here.