When it comes to Vitamin D, are you as smart as my chickens? Whenever I let them out to free range on a sunny day, the first thing they do is come right around the the porch on the south side of the house and commence to sunbathing. Yes, that's right - these chickens are sunbathing! They fluff up their feathers, stretch out their little chickeny feet and soak up some rays like a bunch of bikini-clad ladies on a beach.
Personally, I find it very interesting that pastured chickens, those allowed to free range around outside, produce eggs that are 4 - 6 times higher in Vitamin D than eggs from chickens raised indoors. In fact, a chicken's comb will grow extra large if the chicken is kept in darker conditions, the chicken's body is attempting to increase the surface area of the comb to capture more sunlight. As you can see from my sunbathing birds here, they like to loll around on their sides, spreading out their wings and making sure their feet are in the sun, exposing every bit of skin they can to the sunshine, especially now in the winter months.
Many of us humans stay inside from sunup to sundown, going from our climate-controlled homes to our tinted-windowed cars to our sealed-box office buildings without stepping out into the outside world at all. This sets us up for a big Vitamin D deficiency, and researchers are just now beginning to understand all of the implications (including increased risks of cancer and even the flu) of becoming deficient in Vitamin D.
So what's a poor Northwesterner to do? Well, speaking for myself, I make sure I get out whenever I can, riding my bike to work, walking to the store, walking the dogs, running outside instead of on a treadmill. Even in our winters, that gives me time out in the real sunshine as often as possible. Also, I started taking Vitamin D supplements, following new guidelines that show that adults should take 2,000 I.U. a day. Since Vitamin D is linked with thyroid disease (something I already have issues with), I'm trying to stay on top of it as much as possible.
I found this article by Dr. Mark Hyman to be interesting and informative. I especially like his conclusions that the Dietary requirements should be based on "the collective knowledge from paleobiology, basic science, gene expression data, and large population studies." instead of on isolated trials that treat a complex nutrient with thousands of implications for the human body as if it was one single compound with one outcome. I've noticed that this word "paleobiology" is coming up more and more in everyday scientific articles. Huh, you think we should be looking at what our ancestors did and understanding how we evolved to be the creatures we are today? Yuh think? Heck yeah.
In the meantime, we can follow the example of the humble chicken, make sure we get our Vitamin D in every safe way that we can. I'm taking my book out on the porch now, right next to my sunbathing chickens!