Table of Contents
To sun or not to the sun; that is the question for folks trying to balance the body’s requirements for the natural vitamin D bestowed by the sun’s rays and the need to avoid the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation on our skin.
Vitamin D is made in the body when the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit the skin, setting off a reaction that triggers the synthesis of the sunshine vitamin. Vital for calcium absorption, nerve conduction and immune function, vitamin D is one of the body’s most important nutrients.
What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency?
Lack of sunlight is a major cause of vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to soft or brittle bones, muscle pain or weakness, and in severe cases, a serious bone condition called rickets.
Results of a recent study published in the “Archives of Internal Medicine” underscore the need to be sure we maintain adequate levels of this important vitamin. Over the eight years of the study, participants with low vitamin D levels had more than double the risk of dying of heart disease and other natural causes than those with high levels. Some specialists hypothesize that one of the reasons people today may suffer from a lack of enough vitamin D is a marked decrease in our outdoor activity and an increase in the use of powerful sunscreens that block the skin’s absorption of this vitamin.
How Much Vitamin D is Enough?
Many variables can affect the manufacture of vitamin D, including pollution, cloud cover and heavy layers of clothes. Geographical location plays a huge role in how much of this vital vitamin the body produces, as the weaker and less frequent sunshine of northern latitudes means a shortage of D-boosting UVB rays. Currently, the government recommends 200 international units (IUs) of daily D for people under 50, 400 IUs between the ages of 50 and 70, and 600 IUs for folks over 70.
However, many medical experts recommend higher daily supplements of 2,000 IUs in winter and a booster dose of unprotected sunshine every day in summer.
How Can We Get Enough of the Sunshine Vitamin?
As people in the north tend to get insufficient direct UVB rays during the colder seasons, it’s important to stock up on the body’s store during the summer months, when the sun is at its peak and beaches, parks and pools beckon.
Experts recommend fair-skinned folks get 10 minutes of unprotected midday sunlight to get their optimum dose, about 10,000 international units. Dark skinned people and the elderly also need to be sure they’re getting their daily dose of D.
Though sunlight is the most natural method of ensuring we get enough vitamin D, foods and supplements can help meet daily needs.
Chow down on cold water fish, egg yolks and vitamin-fortified milk or cereal, or pop D in your daily multivitamin or as a separate supplement.
Basically, we should all get some daily sunshine, whether a brisk autumn walk or ten blissfully unprotected minutes of the summer sun. Add this cheery habit to your daily schedule along with a vitamin supplement and some D-rich foods, and you should get an optimum dose of the all-important sunshine vitamin.
Image credit: GetStencil.com
Last article update: 6/18/2019