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.
How Do We Get Vitamin D
Our body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin when we’re outdoors. From about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D we need from sunlight.
Vitamin D is also added to all infant formula milk, as well as some breakfast cereals, fat spreads and non-dairy milk alternatives.
The amounts added to these products can vary and may only be added in small amounts. Manufacturers must add vitamin D to infant formula milk by law.
Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements.
How Much Is Enough
Gilchrest points out a problem with the literature: Everyone recommends something different, depending on the studies with which they are most aligned. One study reports an increased risk of prostate cancer for men with 25D levels above 90 ng/mL, for example. In the June 2007 Lappe article, she notes, subjects in the control high-risk unsupplemented group had 25D levels of 71 nmol/L and the supplemented group had levels of 96 nmol/L.
Nevertheless, given the epidemiologic backdrop described above, there are now calls to rethink sun exposure policy or to promote vitamin D supplementation in higher-risk populations. Such groups include pregnant or breastfeeding women , the elderly, and those who must avoid the sun. Additionally, solely breastfed infants whose mothers were vitamin D deficient during pregnancy have smaller reserves of the nutrient and are at greater risk of developing rickets. Even in the sun-rich environment of the Middle East, insufficient vitamin D is a severe problem among breast-fed infants of women who wear a burqa , as reported in the February 2003 Journal of Pediatrics.
To maximize protection against cancer, Grant recommends raising 25D levels to between 40 and 60 ng/mL. Research such as that described in Holicks August 2006 Journal of Clinical Investigation article indicates that simply keeping the serum level above 20 ng/mL could reduce the risk of cancer by as much as 3050%.
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Get Outside In The Sun Daily
Exposing your body to direct sunlight is one of the best ways to naturally increase your vitamin D levels, as the sun is one of the best sources of this important nutrient. When your skin is exposed to the sun’s UV-B rays, 7-dehydrocholesterol begins the process of vitamin D production throughout the body. It is worth noting that many variables can impact the amount of vitamin D the body can produce. These include skin tone, geographical location, age, sunscreen use, and amount of clothing.
Sunlight And Vitamin D: Innate Immune Health
Cod liver oil was used in the mid-1800s to treat tuberculosis.,, In the early 1900s heliotherapy was promoted for treating both skin and pulmonary tuberculosis., It was also recognized that young children with rickets had a much higher risk of developing pneumonia and upper respiratory tract infections and were more likely to die of them.,,, Therefore sun exposure and vitamin D were used in the early 1900s to treat and prevent tuberculosis,, and upper respiratory tract infections.
Figure 60. The seasonal and latitudinal distribution of outbreaks of type A influenza in the world, 19641975, summarized from the Weekly Epidemiological Record of the World Health Organization into major zones. The diagrams show for each calendar month the percentage of each zone’s total outbreaks. In both north and south temperate zones the epidemics are distributed around the local midwinter, whereas the tropical zones show a transition, each approximating toward the distribution of its own temperate zone. The curve indicates the midsummer path taken annually by vertical solar radiation. The epidemic path seems to parallel it, but to lag 6 mo behind it. Reproduced with permission from.
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How Much Sun Exposure Is Needed For Vitamin D
When it comes to making vitamin D from the sun, one of the most common questions is, How much vitamin D do you get from the sun?. The answer is going to be a little bit different for everybody. Skin tone, starting vitamin D level, and other factors all impact how much vitamin D a person will make from sun exposure. Studies have shown that full-body exposure to the sun that causes slight pinkness 24 hours later has the potential to stimulate between 15,000-20,000 IU of vitamin D production in the body. This shows that the human body has the potential to create large amounts of vitamin D from light with minimal amounts of time spent in the sun. Using light for making vitamin D allows your body to self-regulate vitamin D production and make as much as it needs to stay healthy, without any risk of overdose or toxicity.
Why You Need Vitamin D
Vitamin D absorbs calcium and helps you maintain strong bones. It also contributes to the health of your muscles, nerves, and immune system.
If you don’t get enough vitamin D, you may be at risk for developing rickets, osteoporosis and other bone disorders, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. Over 41 percent of U.S. adults don’t get enough vitamin D. Older adults, people with dark skin, and those who are obese are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency.
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What Role Does The Sun Play In Vitamin D Synthesis
The sun kickstarts a process that converts a vitamin D precursor into the active form your body needs.
This article is part of the SciFri Science Clubs Explain the Sun activity. Participate using the hashtag #ExplainTheSun.
Vitamin D is essential to healthy bones, because it helps you absorb calcium, which strengthens your skeleton. Without the vitamin, you could develop brittle bones, increasing the chance of getting osteoporosis when youre older. Children with insufficient vitamin D can develop soft bones, putting them at risk for rickets, according to the National Institutes of Health . Inadequate amounts of vitamin D can also lead to a weakened immune system.
Adults need between 600 to 800 international units of vitamin D a day. You can obtain it from a few foods, including oily fish such as salmon and tuna, fortified milk, juice, and cereal. Taking supplements can provide sufficient amounts, tooalthough thats not an ideal approach, according to some experts, who say that getting the vitamin naturally is best. Still, vitamin D is so important to health that, for example, its the one supplement we provide to our astronauts, says Scott M. Smith, manager for Nutritional Biochemistry at NASAs Johnson Space Center.
Unlike other organic compounds that can only be acquired through diet or supplements, however, you can also get the recommended amount of vitamin D with a little help from the sun.
Can I Take Vitamin D Everyday
Current guidelines say adults shouldnt take more than the equivalent of 100 micrograms a day. But vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so your body can store it for months and you dont need it every day. That means you could equally safely take a supplement of 20 micrograms a day or 500 micrograms once a month.
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The Final Verdict On Vitamin D
No bones about it, the endocrinologists we interviewed agree with our dermatologist.
“Just being outdoors, you get a fair amount of sun exposure and some sun-related generation of vitamin D, says Dr. Insogna. Because skin cancer, particularly melanoma, can be such a devastating disease, it’s best to use sunblock when outdoors in strong sunlight for any prolonged length of time. Because this may limit the amount of vitamin D you get from sun exposure, make sure your diet includes sources of vitamin D from foods or supplements, he says.
Both your skin and your bones will thank you.
Can Vitamins Change Urine Color
High-dose vitamins can turn your pee a bright, almost neon yellow color. The most common culprit is vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, which is found in most multivitamins. The neon color in pee is just a harmless sign that youre taking more than your body needs, and the excess is mixing with your pee.
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How Do You Get Vitamin D From The Sun
The body needs a steady source of vitamin D for many different processes.
The sun is our best natural source of vitamin D. Spending even a short time in the sun can provide the body with all of the vitamin D it needs for the day. According to the Vitamin D Council, this could be:
- 15 minutes for a person with light skin
- a couple of hours for a person with dark skin
Very few foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D, so people can ensure they get enough of the vitamin by scheduling regular time outdoors.
When the suns ultraviolet B rays hit a persons skin, processes inside the tissue start making vitamin D for the body to use. It is essential to remember, however, that too much sun exposure can burn the skin and potentially lead to skin cancer.
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, which is one of the main building blocks of bone. The body also needs vitamin D to keep the nerves, muscles, and immune system working properly.
Wearing sunscreen limits the bodys ability to make vitamin D. However, spending time in the sun without sunscreen can cause sunburn and may contribute to the development of skin cancer.
The body cannot make vitamin D when exposed to the suns rays through a window as the glass blocks the suns UVB rays.
- older people
Short Unprotected Sun Exposure Can Do You Good
No one can argue against sunscreenâs importance when it comes to protecting from skin cancer and sunburns. A typical sunscreen comprises a chemical blend that helps absorb, reflect, or diffuse sunlight, preventing harmful ultraviolet rays from reaching your skin cells.
Some research findings have suggested that a strong sunblock like SPF-30 sunscreen can cut vitamin D production in your skin by between 95 and 98 percent.
That would otherwise be all good and dandy except that UVB rays are needed to make vitamin D. But, instead of ditching sunscreen altogether , you should consider exposing much of your skin to the sun without sunscreen for around only 10-15 minutes. Thereafter you can slap on a good sunblock.
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Other Sources Of Vitamin D
The sun, some meals, and vitamin D supplements are all good sources of vitamin D.
The recommended daily consumption of vitamin D from food or supplements in the United States is as follows:
- Children and teenagers: 600 international units or 15 micrograms .
- Adults up to the age of 70 years old: 600 IU or 15 mcg.
- Adults aged 71 years old and over: 800 IU or 20 mcg.
- During pregnancy and breastfeeding: 600 IU or 15 mcg.
Vitamin D can also be present in a few foods such as:
- Oily fish
- Fortified meals
- Red meat
So Can We Synthesise Vitamin D From Behind A Window
Well, no thats where the problem lies. In fact, vitamin D biosynthesis is initiated in the skin when UVB rays react with 7-dehydrocholesterol to produce pre-vitamin D3, which is then isomerised into cholecalciferol .
Now, windows let UVA rays through… but they block UVB. So while the sun is still able to damage the skin through a pane of glass by generating oxidative stress which accelerates skin ageing, it cannot provide any benefits. We can neither synthesise vitamin D nor get a suntan from behind a window .
Whats more, the ratio between UVA and UVB from the sun varies throughout the year . When we who live in the northern hemisphere go outside in the winter months, we receive very little UVB, but a lot of UVA. Conversely, the UVB percentage increases in summer – though UVB has its bad side too. It poses a risk to our skin and health in general, so its important to be careful about directly exposing your skin to the sun. To give itself some protection from UVB, the body also makes melanin which produces a kind of barrier in the form of a suntan.
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When To Take A Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D supplements are generally recommended for the following cases:
- Health conditionssuch as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, which impairs vitamin D absorption.
- Lactose intolerance or milk allergies, which increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency since people with these conditions are less likely to consume dairy products fortified with vitamin D.
- Darker skin tones, since their skin produces less vitamin D.
- Breastfed infants, because breast milk doesn’t provide adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Talk to your primary care provider before taking any supplements to discuss the recommended amount of supplementation.
Important: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it’s best to take supplements with some fat from food to maximize absorption.
Vitamin D From Sunlight
Ultraviolet B rays from the sun convert a natural vitamin D precursor present in your skin, 7-dehydrocholesterol, into vitamin D3. This travels to the liver where the addition of oxygen and hydrogen to vitamin D3 changes it into 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Doctors test for this intermediate and still inactive form of vitamin D in blood to determine your vitamin D status. Final activation of 25-hydroxyvitamin D takes place in the kidneys, where more oxygen and hydrogen molecules attach to 25-hydroxyvitamin D and convert it into its active form known as 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D, or calcitriol.
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What Is Important To Know About Vitamin D Production Via Sun Exposure
Your body naturally makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. The form of vitamin D that you get from the sun is called D3 , which is derived from cholesterol. The amount of vitamin D you get from exposing your bare skin to sun is dependent on several factors. They are:
1)Where you live
The closer to the equator you live, the easier it is for your body to synthesize vitamin D from the suns rays all year round. For instance, if you live at a northern latitude like Anchorage, Alaska, your body would create less vitamin D during the winter than someone who lives in Miami, because Florida has more exposure to UVB rays that are necessary to produce vitamin D.
2) The amount of skin you expose
If you wear clothing that covers most of your skin, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. This also means that people who train indoors during winter months may have to dig into their bodies vitamin D stores if they don’t consume enough, which further increases their risk for deficiency. Cloudy weather can also be a problem because fewer UVB rays reach your skin on cloudy days.
3)The color of your skin
- Type I – White very fair red or blond hair blue eyes freckles
- Type II White fair red or blond hair blue, hazel, or green eyes
- Type III Cream white fair with any eye or hair color very common
- Type IV Brown typical Mediterranean Caucasian skin
- Type V Dark Brown mid-eastern skin types
- Type VI Black
4)The time of year and day
Do Sunbeds Give You Vitamin D
Vitamin D is known for being an essential compound that helps to regulate calcium levels in the body and keep the bones strong and healthy. And while more research needs to be done, there is mounting evidence which suggests Vitamin D does much more, potentially even helping to reduce the risk of cancer and chronic diseases.
However, with UVB light being an essential factor stimulating Vitamin D production in the body, the lack of natural sunlight in the winter months makes many of us deficient.
According to the British Association of Dermatologists, 97.5% of the population require at least 10 micrograms of Vitamin D per day to remain healthy. Over the summer, it is easy to get enough UVB exposure to produce this level of Vitamin D. But the NHS estimates that, in the UK, it is difficult to get enough UVB exposure from natural sunlight between October and March when the days are darker and cloudier.
While some foods do contain Vitamin D – including oily fish, red meat, egg yolks, and fortified cereals – it is difficult to get enough Vitamin D from food alone says the NHS.
It is clear that an alternative is needed. So could sunbeds be a suitable choice?
Are Sunbeds a Suitable Source of Vitamin D?
If you did a quick Google search, youd find hugely conflicting information which makes it difficult to understand if sunbeds are a good source of Vitamin D or not.
The simple answer is yes.
What Does the Research Say?
Could Sunbeds be Better Than Diet?
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