/10how Skin Colour Can Affect Vitamin D Production In The Body
The colour of our skin is determined by a pigment called melanin. People with darker skin have more melanin as compared to people who have lighter skin.
Melanin acts as a protector that saves your skin from the excess sunlight. It’s like a natural sunscreen barrier that absorbs the UV rays and defends the skin against sunburn and skin cancers.
But this also means that people with dark skin colour need to spend longer hours in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D that people with lighter skin can produce in less time.
This also makes people with dark skin colour more prone to be deficient in Vitamin D.
Unconventional Ways To Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels From The Sun
While the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is around 600 IU daily, I recommend more. Myself and many other experts agree that an ideal range for vitamin D in healthy individuals is between 1,000 and 2,000 IU daily. This is the equivalent of about 20 to 30 minutes of sun exposure three times a week if you have fair skin.
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.
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Vitamin D Myths And Facts
How much do you really know about the sunshine vitamin?
With the possible exception of C, theres perhaps no vitamin more frequently discussed than the sunshine one aka vitamin D.
Still, with all that chatter come some misconceptions. Theres an expectation that vitamin D is a miracle drug, and that if we all just take megadoses of it, it will solve all problems, says Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the author of Starved: A Nutrition Doctors Journey From Empty to Full. That, of course, simply isnt true. Theres no vitamin or supplement that is a cure-all, health experts agree.
Read on to explore the facts, and some common myths, about vitamin D.
If You Live Far From The Equator
People living in areas farther away from the equator make less vitamin D in their skin.
In these areas, more of the suns rays, especially UVB rays, are absorbed by the earths ozone layer. So people who live farther away from the equator usually need to spend more time in the sun to produce enough .
Whats more, people who live farther from the equator may not produce any vitamin D from the sun for up to six months a year during the winter months.
For example, people who live Boston, USA and Edmonton, Canada struggle to make any vitamin D from sunlight between the months of November and February (
During this time of year, its important that they get their vitamin D from foods and supplements instead.
People who live farther away from the equator need more time in the sun, as more UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone layer in these areas. During winter months, they cannot make vitamin D from sunlight, so they need to get it from foods or supplements.
Vitamin D is made from cholesterol in the skin. That means you need to expose lots of skin to the sunlight to make enough.
Some scientists recommend exposing around a third of the area of your skin to the sun .
According to this recommendation, wearing a tank top and shorts for 1030 minutes three times per week during the summer should be sufficient for most people with lighter skin. People with darker skin may need a bit longer than this.
Below are some consequences of too much sunlight:
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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.
So How Much Time Does It Take To Produce Enough Vitamin D
The amount of time a person needs to produce enough vitamin D for good health depends on:
- the person’s distance from the equator
- the season of the year
- the amount of melanin in their skin darker skin requires longer than fair skin.
Most people will have adequate vitamin D levels just from incidental exposure even outside the peak UV times of 11am and 4pm. In fact, it is thought that as little as five minutes per day of incidental sun exposure is sufficient for someone who burns easily, and up to 20 minutes is sufficient for a person with darker skin.
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Fact: Vitamin D Helps Support Your Immune System
To keep your immune system functioning at its best, youll want to make sure youre getting enough vitamin D.
Thats because, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, vitamin D may help mitigate the harmful inflammatory response of certain white blood cells, as well as increase the immune cells production of microbe-fighting proteins. Adults who have low vitamin D levels are more likely to report having experienced a recent cold, cough, or upper respiratory tract infection.
Clinical trials have found that vitamin D supplementation can reduce the amount of illnesses that children develop, says McTiernan, referring to past research on influenza. And a meta-analysis published in February 2017 in the BMJ yielded two points: One, people who took vitamin D supplements were 12 percent less likely to develop acute respiratory infections compared with people who didnt. And two, the authors found that for those with a severe vitamin D deficiency, taking vitamin D supplements lowered their respiratory infection risk by 70 percent.
Because of the potential benefits to the immune system, some people have been quick to assume vitamin D could work as a potential COVID-19 prevention tool or therapy, but its still too early to say. According to Harvard, there is no good evidence on the topic because it is such a new virus. Still, they suggest its wise to keep your levels out of the low range.
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What Is Vitamin D
Vitamin D is not one chemical but many. The natural type is produced in the skin from a universally present form of cholesterol, 7-dehydrocholesterol. Sunlight is the key: Its ultraviolet B energy converts the precursor to vitamin D3. In contrast, most dietary supplements are manufactured by exposing a plant sterol to ultraviolet energy, thus producing vitamin D2. Because their function is almost identical, D2 and D3 are lumped together under the name vitamin D but neither will function until the body works its magic .
How your body makes vitamin D
The sun’s energy turns a chemical in your skin into vitamin D3, which is carried to your liver and then your kidneys to transform it to active vitamin D.
The first stop is in the liver, where vitamin D picks up extra oxygen and hydrogen molecules to become 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25D. This is the chemical that doctors usually measure to diagnose vitamin D deficiencies. But although 25D is used for diagnosis, it can’t function until it travels to the kidney. There it acquires a final pair of oxygen and hydrogen molecules to become 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D scientists know this active form of the vitamin as 1,252D, or calcitriol, but for ordinary folks the name vitamin D is accurate enough.
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How To Get Vitamin D:
1. Through the absorption of the sun through your bare skin
If you live close to the equator you could potentially get enough Vitamin D by going out into the sun for 30-60 minutes, 3+ times a week with no sunscreen. You would need to be fair skin, as the darker your skin the longer it takes for it to absorb the Vitamin D from the sun. So although sun is a great way to get some Vitamin D, for a lot of us it cant be the only way.
2. Eat Foods high in Vitamin D
Liver, fatty fish, fortified milk, fortified nut milk products, egg yolks and cod oil are all foods rich in Vitamin D. Even if you eat foods high in Vitamin D every single day, your body is likely to only absorb roughly 10% of your daily required Vitamin D. And for a vegan diet, a lot of these options are off the table.
3. Vitamin D supplements
Last but no least, there are supplements which are the easiest way to safely get the right, and consistent, amount of the vitamin. Its important to find a high quality Vitamin D supplement since many cheaper ones can be less effective, so research is important.
The absorption of Vitamin D in our day to day lives is difficult and there are factors that can further reduce your bodys ability to absorb it. Wondering what could make it harder?
Pick The Right Time To Bask In The Sun
Most people in the US get their sun fix between spring and deep into fall. Even so, summer remains the best season to soak up some sunshine, but with great caution.
The time of day does matter, as well. Your skin tends to produce vitamin D at its peak when you go out during the middle of the day. This is a window in which the sunlight shines with the greatest intensity, as the sun is at its zenith in the sky.
The rule of thumb is that you wonât get enough vitamin D if your shadow is taller than your real height. It pays to go out in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., which is usually when youâll achieve optimal vitamin D levels.
Of course, it wouldn’t be wise to spend a prolonged time out in the scorching hot summer sun. To prevent sunburns and possibly skin cancer, make sure to limit exposure time .” rel=”nofollow”> NIH), and always stay hydrated. Studies show that sunscreens with an SPF of 8 or higher appear to block vitamin-producing rays from the sun, but itâs important to balance time spent in the sun without sunscreen and preventing long-term sun damage.
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Treatment And Prevention Strategies
Vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 can be used for the treatment and prevention of VDD . In patients with extrarenal production of 1,252D, serial monitoring of 25D levels and serum calcium levels during treatment with vitamin D to prevent hypercalcemia is suggested . Primary hyperparathyroidism and VDD need treatment with vitamin D.
How Much Sun Do We Need
The sun’s ultraviolet radiation is both the major cause of skin cancer and the best source of vitamin D. In Australia, we need to balance the risk of skin cancer from too much sun exposure with maintaining adequate vitamin D levels. Sensible sun protection does not put people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
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Vitamin D Deficiency: Prevalence
VDD has been historically defined and recently recommended by the Institute of Medicine as a 25D of less than 0.8 IU. Vitamin D insufficiency has been defined as a 25D of 2129 ng/mL. Children and young- and middle-aged adults are at equally high risk for VDD and insufficiency worldwide. VDD is common in Australia, the Middle East, India, Africa, and South America. Pregnant and lactating women who take a prenatal vitamin and a calcium supplement with vitamin D remain at high risk for VDD.
Positive Effects Of The Sun
When human skin is exposed to sunlight it produces several hormones and peptides that contribute to systemic health and wellness. Substances made from chemical reactions with sunlight are called photoproducts. While vitamin D is the most universally recognized health benefit humans receive from sun exposure, it is just one of many important photoproducts.
Some of the healthy photoproducts all made in the same ultraviolet B wavelength range include:
Vitamin D3- Widespread impact on hard and soft tissues in the body. Impacts musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, neurological, and immune system.
Calcitonin Gene Related Peptide – Reduces hypertension, reduces inflammation and regulates the immune system.
Neuropeptide Substance P – Promotes proper blood flow and regulates immune system.
Adrenocorticotropic Hormone – Reduces inflammation and regulates immune system.
Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone – Reduces inflammation and increases libido.
Calcitriol- Regulates cellular function and is involved in all major systems of the body.
Beta Endorphin – Increases relaxation, acts as a natural painkiller and promotes feeling of well-being.
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But Be Careful Not To Get Sunburned
So getting some sun on your skin is really important, but you dont want to get too much or youll get sunburned.
In summer in Australia, the sun is so strong that you only need to be outside for a few minutes every day to keep your vitamin D up.
But its still good to get plenty of time outside, especially in the morning and afternoon.
Make sure you use sun protection like a hat, clothing, and sunscreen if the UV index is 3 or higher.
In summer its best to stay indoors or in the shade in the middle hours of the day because the Sun is very strong. But in winter the Suns not as strong, so the middle of the day is a good time to get outside in the sun to get your vitamin D.
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Do You Need To Supplement If You Sunbathe
As you can see, there are many variables influencing the quality of your sun exposure and the amount of vitamin D youll produce.
Of course, all this provided your body can properly perform each of the steps in the sequence of events that culminates with the activation of vitamin D in your kidneys.
Thus, it’s easy to understand why, not too long ago, it was estimated that one billion people were deficient in vitamin D.
Because of all these issues, many turn to supplementation. Thats understandable, and in many cases may even be a necessity like, for example, if you suffer from a health problem that responds well to vitamin D supplementation.
Still, any amount of sunlight you can get will be beneficial for your health, so it’s always beneficial to strive to follow these steps whenever you can.
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So How Exactly Is It Made
When the UV-B light hits your skin, the energy in the light combines with chemicals in the very top layer of your skin.
Sometimes this results in your body making vitamin D. Other times the combination makes bad chemicals that lead to sunburn, and maybe later to skin cancers.
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When the UV-B energy is taken into a chemical, it gives the chemical more energy scientists describe this as the chemical being excited.
When the heat from the infrared light is added, it gives the excited chemical even more energy so much that the links holding the chemical together break apart and it changes into a totally different chemical.
Imagine joining hands with all your friends and making a big circle, then running madly around. Some people lose their grip and their hands come apart. Suddenly its not a circle anymore, but a different shape.
This is what happens in the skin. The chemical that takes in the UV-B changes, because the links between atoms in the circle break, to become vitamin D.
The vitamin D is then picked up by the blood that flows through the skin.
But before it works properly in the body it has to go to the liver and then to the kidneys where it turns into the form that can help our bones and muscles.