Why Is Vitamin D So Important
Spending time outdoors is often difficult for those of us who spend most of our days under fluorescent lights. But the truth is, keeping cooped up indoors all day may be harmful to your health! The bad news is that if you dont get outside often and expose your skin to the sun, it may result in low vitamin D. Why?
If you dont get enough vitamin D, it can affect the way you feel and how well you perform, which makes this vitamin crucial for athletes. Specifically, vitamin D helps to:
- Increase bone health along with the help of calcium
- Increase muscle mass and strength
- Increase the size and number of the muscle fibers that are used for short bursts of speed and power
- Improve lower body strength
- Build strength in your legs
- Prevent falls
- Regulate the immune system and protect against certain diseases
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey , the majority of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. The recommended daily intake is 600 IU, but if your vitamin D levels are low, you may need to take much more. The only way to know whether your vitamin D levels are adequate is to have your blood levels checked. InsideTracker blood analysis includes vitamin D and will tell you not just whether your levels are normal, but whether they are optimal to promote a healthy body and life.
How To Get Vitamin D
You can make your vitamin D the old-fashioned way, by exposing your skin to UVB radiation in sunlight. It doesn’t take much, but people living north of the 37-degree-latitude line roughly the imaginary line between Philadelphia and San Francisco can’t get enough UVB in winter to do the trick. And many others will find it all too easy to overdose on UVB, increasing their risk of malignant melanomas and other skin cancers, as well as wrinkles and premature skin aging. All in all, most doctors recommend avoiding sunlight and getting vitamin D by mouth.
Diet can help, but it’s very hard to approach the new goals with food alone. Fish and shellfish provide natural vitamin D , but you’ll have to eat about 5 ounces of salmon, 7 ounces of halibut, 30 ounces of cod, or nearly two 8-ounce cans of tuna to get just 400 IU. An egg yolk will provide about 20 IU, but since it also contains nearly a day’s quota of cholesterol, you can’t very well use eggs to fill your tank with D. Other foods have even less D, which is why manufacturers fortify milk, some yogurt, some orange juice, and many cereals with vitamin D. In general, a serving will provide about 100 IU that means drinking a quart of fortified milk to get 400 IU.
Who Should Take Vitamin D Supplements
Some groups of the population are at greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D.
The Department of Health recommends that these people should take daily vitamin D supplements to make sure they get enough.
These groups are:
- all babies from birth to 1 year old
- all children aged 1 to 4 years old
- people who aren’t often exposed to the sun
For the rest of the population, everyone over the age of 5 years is advised to consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
But the majority of people aged 5 years and above will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer , so you might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.
You can get vitamin supplements containing vitamin D free of charge if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or have a child under 4 years of age and qualify for the Healthy Start scheme.
You can also buy single vitamin supplements or vitamin drops containing vitamin D for babies and young children at most pharmacies and larger supermarkets.
Speak to your pharmacist, GP or health visitor if you’re unsure whether you need to take a vitamin D supplement or don’t know what supplements to take.
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How Much Vitamin D Do You Get From The Sun
Vitamin D — specifically the form D3 — is the only vitamin your body makes itself. It’s fat-soluble, which means your body stores vitamin D in its adipose tissue — in its fat. And, if you want to be specific about things, this vitamin is actually a hormone.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, increase bone density and reduces the risk of soft, weak bones, as well as bone fractures. It also helps with the body’s bone development and muscle function, helps keep the immune system healthy, and helps keep insulin, calcium and phosphorus levels in balance. And emerging research is finding promising associations between our vitamin D consumption and decreased our risk of developing a variety of conditions including autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, certain cancers and diabetes.
While vitamin D is all of these things, it might best be known as the sunshine vitamin. How much sunshine your body needs to boost vitamin D levels and how best to get it is up for debate.
Since 2010, the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D falls between 600 and 800 International Unit per day , but new research suggests adults may actually need at least 2,000 IU of vitamin D every day to maintain a healthy level in the body and reap the most benefits .
There are two ways we get our D other than exposure to sunlight: diet and supplements.
Vitamin D Deficiency Why It Happens
The major source of vitamin D for children and adults is exposure to natural sunlight. Thus, the major cause of VDD is inadequate exposure to sunlight. Wearing a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 reduces vitamin D synthesis in the skin by more than 95%. People with a naturally dark skin tone have natural sun protection and require at least three to five times longer exposure to make the same amount of vitamin D as a person with a white skin tone. There is an inverse association of serum 25D and body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2, and thus, obesity is associated with VDD.
Patients with one of the fat malabsorption syndromes and bariatric patients are often unable to absorb the fat-soluble vitamin D, and patients with nephritic syndrome lose 25D bound to the vitamin D-binding protein in the urine. Patients on a wide variety of medications, including anticonvulsants and medications to treat AIDS/HIV, are at risk because these drugs enhance the catabolism of 25D and 1,252D. Patients with chronic granuloma-forming disorders , some lymphomas, and primary hyperparathyroidism who have increased metabolism of 25D to 1,252D are also at high risk for VDD.
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/10the Body Parts To Expose In Sun To Get More Vitamin D
Vitamin D is made from cholesterol in the skin, which means one needs to expose lots of skin to sunlight to get enough vitamin D.
Expose your arms, legs, back and abdomen to get more vitamin D. Do not forget to expose your back as it allows your body to produce the maximum vitamin D.
You can choose to wear a tank top and shorts. You must wear your hat and goggles to protect your face and eyes.
People Most At Risk Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Some people dont have enough vitamin D. This could be because their skin isnt exposed to enough sunlight, or because of health problems or higher needs for vitamin D.
For example, if:
- you dont go outdoors often, for example if you are housebound, in hospital or are disabled and less able to get about
- you wear clothes which cover most of your skin when you go outside
- you have dark skin, for example if youre from an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background as you need more sunlight to make enough vitamin D
- you wear sunscreen most or all of the time
- you need more vitamin D, babies, young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women need more vitamin D
- you are an older adult, as older people cant make as much vitamin D
- you have a health problem or youre taking certain medications which change the way vitamin D is controlled in the body, such as Crohns disease, coeliac disease, and some types of liver and kidney disease.
- you are very overweight, a there is some evidence to suggest that people who are very over weight are more likely to lack vitamin D
- you eat very few foods that contain vitamin D.
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Slow Healing Of Wounds
Itâs thought that vitamin Dâs ability to fight infection and control inflammation may contribute to proper wound healing. So, if your wounds heal too slowly after an injury, infection, or surgery, you may have an insufficient or deficient level of vitamin D in your body.
A randomized controlled trial study found that low vitamin D levels hampered certain wound healing aspects in patients recovering from periodontal surgery. In a 2016 lab experiment, scientists established that the vitamin might help elevate the production of beta compounds that aid the formation of new skin during the wound-healing process.
Is Sunlight Good For You
A large body of research demonstrates the importance of sunlight for supporting health. Studies have shown a correlation between lack of sunlight and the occurrence of several chronic health problems:
Numerous studies have demonstrated a reduced incidence of multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes with increased sun exposure.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and increased sun exposure is correlated to reduced cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension.
Cardiovascular complications and associated death occurs significantly more frequently in the winter than summer.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. Many studies have found that increased sun exposure is correlated with reduced occurrence and mortality from multiple forms of cancer.
Autoimmune, neurological, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular disease, hypertension and common cancers have all been linked to a lack of sun exposure and vitamin D.
A 20-year study following 29,518 subjects found that those avoiding sun exposure were twice as likely to die from all causes. This research corroborates several previous studies from around the world that prove diminished sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality.
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Not Getting Enough Vitamin D
We dont need vitamin D from food or sunlight every day. But if you dont get enough over a longer period of time, you wont have enough vitamin D for good health known as vitamin D deficiency. This is very common in the UK around one in five adults and one in six children dont have enough vitamin D.
Some people are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency than others. Supplements and eating foods which contain vitamin D can help.
Be Conscious Of Your Skin Type
As noted earlier, lighter-skinned folks are more efficient at making vitamin D from the sun than darker-skinned individuals. Itâs no wonder vitamin D deficiency is more common in African American and non-white Hispanic communities.
Darker-skinned people have more melanin, which acts as a natural sunscreen by absorbing the sun’s ultraviolet rays to protect against skin cancers, sunburns, and skin damage. Unfortunately, this creates a barrier for UVB rays which are essential for making vitamin D in the skin. Accordingly, people with darker skin are advised to stay longer out in the sun with proper safety measures in place.
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When Do I Need Sun Protection
Sun protection is recommended when the UV Index is 3 or above, or when spending extended periods of time outdoors. Sunscreen should be incorporated into your daily morning routine on these days.
UV radiation levels in northern areas of Australia are generally higher than in southern areas, so in some parts of the country, sun protection is needed all year round, whenever the UV Index is 3 or higher. In these areas, it is safe to go outside without sun protection early morning and late afternoon when the UV Index falls below 3.
In some southern areas of Australia, there are times of the year when sun protection may not be necessary, generally late autumn and winter. If you live in an area where the UV Index falls below 3 during these months, you do not require sun protection, unless you are at high altitudes or near highly reflective surfaces like snow, work outdoors, or are outside for extended periods.
To check UV levels and the times sun protection is required, look at the UV Index in the weather section of your daily newspaper, on the Bureau of Meteorology website or download Cancer Council’s free SunSmart app to your mobile device. When UV levels are below 3 no UV Alert is issued.
Several studies have shown that sunscreen use has minimal impact on Vitamin D levels over time.
Which Vitamin D For Lack Of Sunlight
While you might consider eating more foods that contain vitamin D and getting a little bit of sunlight, you will likely be told to take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D comes in two forms: D2 and D3. D2, also called ergocalciferol, comes from plants. D3, also called cholecalciferol, comes from animals.
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Benefits Of Vitamin D
Along with the primary benefits of vitamin D regulating the body there are other benefits of getting enough of this vitamin. For instance, vitamin D may play a role in fighting various diseases. These include heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and even the flu.
Vitamin D is also said to help with depression. Studies have shown that vitamin D may assist with regulating your mood, and can therefore help alleviate the symptoms of those suffering from depression. In a study of people with fibromyalgia, researchers found that those experiencing depression and anxiety were more likely to also have a vitamin D deficiency.
Clinical trials have also proven that strong levels of Vitamin D can boost weight loss. In one study, subjects taking vitamin D supplements were able to lose more weight than other subjects taking a placebo. The scientist behind this study claimed that the extra calcium and vitamin D suppressed appetite.
Infants Under 12 Months Old
Infants are recommended to take at least 10 mcg or 400 IU daily from birth until their first birthday. In the first six months of life, babies should not be exposed to direct sunlight. After then, however, you can slowly expose them to sunlight, so they can get a good dose of vitamin D from the sun.
Formula fed babies do not need additional supplementation, as long as theyâre drinking about 32 ounces of formula a day. Formulas are supplemented already with vitamin D.
Does a breastfed infant need vitamin D supplementation? A nursing mom with sufficient vitamin D in her own body ensures that her nursing infant receives enough. One detailed study suggests that nursing moms should consume about 6400 IU per day to ensure adequate vitamin D to their nursing infant. But many moms are deficient in vitamin D. Thus, supplementation may be necessary and breastfed infants aged between 0 and 12 months should take a 10-mcg daily supplement of vitamin D.
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Sun Protection And Vitamin D
You need sun protection as much as you need vitamin D. You can have both, without skin damage or nutritional deficiency. A dermatologist tells you how.
ANNE MARIE MCNEILL, MD, PHD, and ERIN WESNER
We all need vitamin D. It spurs bone growth, and without it wed be at high risk of conditions such as osteoporosis. Vitamin D also gives an important boost to the immune system, and some in the medical community believe it can help stave off any number of diseases, while a D deficiency can open a Pandoras box of ailments.
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D. The suns ultraviolet B rays interact with a protein called 7-DHC in the skin, converting it into vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D.
The problem is, too many people think that using sunscreen and other forms of sun protection leads to vitamin D deficiency, and that the best way to obtain enough of the vitamin is through unprotected sun exposure. But that can lead to a whole other set of serious problems. As a dermatologist and member of The Skin Cancer Foundation, I want to explain why, when you add up the pros and cons, letting the sun beat down on your face and body is not the way to satisfy your D quotient. Let me show you how you can have your D and literally eat it too, without abusing the skin youre in.
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What Happens When You Dont Get Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50 percent of the population worldwide, with an estimated 1 billion people worldwide having a vitamin D deficiency. In children, a true vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets, rare disease that causes bones to become soft and bend. In adults, a serious lack of vitamin D can cause osteomalacia, a disease that causes weak bones, bone pain and muscle weakness.
Now before you run to the store to buy a large amount of vitamin D supplements, Carpenter notes that it is possible to get too much vitamin D. If your vitamin D levels are too high, then you can be at risk for hypercalcemia. This condition can actually weaken your bones, create kidney stones and interfere with how your heart and brain work.
There is not a toxicity of vitamin D that you can get from the sun, Carpenter explained, whereas you can get too much vitamin D by taking too many supplements.
She highly recommends getting your daily dose of vitamin D through everyday sunlight, but if that is not possible, then she recommends speaking to a health care provider before taking any supplements in addition to a multivitamin.