Think You’re Getting Enough Vitamin D from the Sun? Think Again.
Lately it seems everybody is talking about vitamin D – and whether or not you’re getting enough of it! From your doctor to your colleague to your neighbor, each one might have a different opinion on the best kind of vitamin D. The sun? Food sources? Supplements? Well, recent research may be able to put that debate to rest.
Why is Vitamin D SO Important?
There are a variety of health benefits associated with vitamin D. Some evidence suggests that Vitamin D can help prevent a variety of common cancers, while other research links enough vitamin D to a better mood and a more healthy weight. When adults experience deficiencies in vitamin D, possible health issues can include muscle weakness, bone fractures, increased risk of cancers, development of autoimmune diseases, increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and infectious disease. It’s not wonder, then, that there has been a significant increase in the interest of the variety of benefits found in vitamin D.
How Does Your Body Get Vitamin D?
Your body can produce vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. But, as there is an increased risk of developing skin cancer with increased exposure to the sun, there is some concern as to obtaining this important nutrient through sun exposure alone. In fact, nutritional supplements within the US have been rising in popularity due to the nearly 1.5 million people diagnosed annually with skin cancer.
So . . . which form of vitamin D is better for the body?
Scientists from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the Norwegian Institute for Air Research in Tromso used computer models to simulate optimal sun exposure times needed to produce vitamin D in the body. Researchers chose two geographical locations; Miami, FL and Boston, MA. Data was collected from these two sites in four months- January, April, July and October.
The data collected suggested that between 3-6 minutes of sun exposure was sufficient to produce 400IU of vitamin D in the body in both locations. The study did show that it was more challenging for the body to produce vitamin D in Boston during the winter months due to the lack of sunlight. Not only that, but many experts are suggesting that more than 400 IU daily is needed for optimal health, especially in children.
What this study did show is that there are limitations such as season, geography and skin type, each which can impact not only the exposure of the body to the sun, but the amount of vitamin D produced by the body. With these factors, coupled with the potential skin cancer risk associated with prolonged sun exposure, the researchers in this study suggest that optimal vitamin D levels can be produced from supplements alone.