How Long Should We Spend In The Sun
Most people can make enough vitamin D from being out in the sun daily for short periods with their forearms, hands or lower legs uncovered and without sunscreen from late March or early April to the end of September, especially from 11am to 3pm.
It’s not known exactly how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D to meet the body’s requirements.
This is because there are a number of factors that can affect how vitamin D is made, such as your skin colour or how much skin you have exposed.
But you should be careful not to burn in the sun, so take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before your skin starts to turn red or burn.
People with dark skin, such as those of African, African-Caribbean or south Asian origin, will need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as someone with lighter skin.
How long it takes for your skin to go red or burn varies from person to person. Cancer Research UK has tips to help you protect your skin in the sun.
Your body can’t make vitamin D if you’re sitting indoors by a sunny window because ultraviolet B rays can’t get through the glass.
The longer you stay in the sun, especially for prolonged periods without sun protection, the greater your risk of skin cancer.
If you plan to be out in the sun for long, cover up with suitable clothing, wrap-around sunglasses, seeking shade and applying at least SPF15 sunscreen.
Get Enough Vitamin D Without The Risk Of Sunburn
- Fish liver oils – cod
- Fish – mackerel, halibut, salmon, sardines and tuna
- Dairy products – butter and milk
- Sprouted seeds – sunflower seeds
- Healthy children under 1 year of age 1,000 IU
- Healthy children over 1 year of age 1,000 IU per every 11kg of body weight
- Healthy adults and adolescents at least 5,000 IU
- Pregnant and lactating mothers – at least 6,000 IU
Natural Sources Of Vitamin D
During the interview with Dr Jacobs, we learn that Vitamin D does also occur naturally in a few foods such as oily fish, mushrooms and egg yolk. It is also added to various everyday grocery items, but unfortunately, the amounts of Vitamin D in foods are quite small, so a combination of sunlight and supplement is necessary.
Our body produces its own Vitamin D with help from the sun. When UVB rays penetrate the skin, they cause a chemical reaction that converts fatty acids into Vitamin D. It is vitamin D which enables the body to absorb calcium from food.
But there is a dilemma because doctors have strongly advised us to cover up or use high-factor sun cream to protect ourselves from melanoma, and this is vitally important, but shielding our skin from the rays of the sun also blocks our Vitamin D supply.
Said Dr Jacobs: As doctors, weve campaigned to avoid sunshine to prevent skin cancer. But we should add to the message, take Vitamin D in some other ways, and take a supplement to fortify your food. We shouldnt be seeing children with rickets due to a lack of Vitamin D in this day and age.
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What You Need To Know
Vitamin D plays an essential role in your body. According to an article on UpToDate, which was updated in February 2019, your vitamin D blood level should be at least 30 ng/mL. That means anything over 30 ng/mL is considered healthy. These ranges are often debated, but it’s generally agreed that anything under 20 ng/mL is a deficiency.
Meanwhile, a January 2018 article in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology noted that toxicity begins around 125 ng/mL. This means that the healthy range is somewhere between 30 ng/mL and 120 ng/mL, which is quite a difference.
What Happens If I Take Too Much Vitamin D
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body . This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people.
Do not take more than 100 micrograms of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years.
Children aged 1 to 10 years should not have more than 50 micrograms a day. Infants under 12 months should not have more than 25 micrograms a day.
Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor.
If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.
You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
Page last reviewed: 03 August 2020 Next review due: 03 August 2023
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Vitamin D3 Is Formed In Your Skin
Your skin makes vitamin D3 when its exposed to sunlight.
Specifically, ultraviolet B radiation from sunlight triggers the formation of vitamin D3 from the compound 7-dehydrocholesterol in skin .
A similar process takes place in plants and mushrooms, where UVB light leads to the formation of vitamin D2 from ergosterol, a compound found in plant oils .
If you regularly spend time outdoors, lightly clad and without sunscreen, you may be getting all the vitamin D you need.
In Indian people, an estimated half an hour of midday sun twice a week provides the adequate amount .
Just keep in mind that this duration of exposure does not apply in countries farther away from the equator. In these countries, you may need more time to achieve the same results.
Nevertheless, be careful not to spend too much time in the sun without sunscreen. This is especially important if you have light-colored skin. Sunburns are a major risk factor for skin cancer .
Unlike dietary vitamin D, you cannot overdose on vitamin D3 produced in your skin. If your body already has enough, your skin simply produces less.
That said, many people get very little sun. They either work indoors or live in a country that doesnt get much sunlight during the winter. If this applies to you, make sure to regularly eat plenty of food rich in vitamin D.
Summary Your skin produces vitamin D3 when you spend time in the sun. In contrast, vitamin D2 is produced by plants and mushrooms exposed to sunlight.
Can You Take Too Much Vitamin D
While it is possible to take too much vitamin D, toxicity is very rare.
In fact, you would need to take extremely high doses of 50,000 IU or more for a long period of time .
Its also worth noting that it is impossible to overdose on vitamin D from sunlight .
Although 4,000 IU is set as the maximum amount of vitamin D you can take safely, several studies have shown that taking up to 10,000 IU daily wont cause side effects (
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What Type Of Vitamin D Is Best For Children
The government recommends a supplement of at least 10µg of vitamin D for children over the age of 1 and 8.5-10µg for babies under 1 year old.15
But getting children to take a supplement in tablet or capsule form is easier said than done we get it! Thankfully, there are some child-friendly supplements out there.
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.
What Are The Main Differences Between Vitamin D And D3
The term vitamin D is kind of a misnomer because you will not find anything labeled simply as vitamin D in a pharmacy vitamin aisle. Rather, your choices will be vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 . Generally, when one mentions vitamin D, the implied selection is vitamin D2. For the purpose of this article, when vitamin D is mentioned, it will refer to vitamin D2. The names can be confusing, because many times, patients go into the pharmacy looking for vitamin D and are surprised that there is a D2 and a D3.
Vitamin D comes from plant sources, such as wild mushrooms, as well as fortified foods, such as milk or cereal products. Its strength is typically measured in international units, which is abbreviated as IU on labeling. The 50,000 IU capsules are prescription only, while lower strengths are available over-the-counter. Vitamin D is less expensive to produce and therefore is the form most commonly found in fortified food products.
Vitamin D3 mainly comes from animal sources such as fish oil, fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D3. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the sunshine vitamin. Its strength is also measured in international units. All forms of vitamin D3 are available over-the-counter.
|Main differences between vitamin D and D3|
|Who typically uses the medication?||Infants, children, adolescents, and adults||Infants, children, adolescents, and adults|
How Vitamin D3 Supplements Are Made
For Vitamin D3 supplements, the process actually starts with lanolin, a fatty substance secreted by the skin glands of sheep to condition their wool. It has been used variously by human cultures for thousands of years and today is an ingredient of many skin creams, beauty products and lip balms due to its waterproofing and barrier qualities. But it also provides the chemical precursors for making Vitamin D3.
To produce Vitamin 3, sheeps wool fleece is first washed to remove any impurities which range from dirt and straw to faeces and parasites such as blow flies. A detergent is then added to extract the crude lanolin. This is then saponified: a process which converts the fatty component into chemicals that can be removed by centrifugation. The remaining lanolin alcohols are then refined further and subjected to a solvent wash and/or chromatography. This extracts crude cholesterol, which is the base ingredient for a series of chemical reactions that produce a compound named 7-dehydrocholesterol, also called pre-Vitamin D3. This is illuminated by ultraviolet light to form Vitamin D3, mimicking the reaction that occurs in our skin.
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Vitamin D3 Is More Effective At Improving Vitamin D Status
Vitamin D2 and D3 are not equal when it comes to raising your vitamin D status.
Both are effectively absorbed into the bloodstream. However, the liver metabolizes them differently.
The liver metabolizes vitamin D2 into 25-hydroxyvitamin D2 and vitamin D3 into 25-hydroxyvitamin D3. These two compounds are collectively known as calcifediol.
Calcifediol is the main circulating form of vitamin D, and its blood levels reflect your bodys stores of this nutrient.
For this reason, your health care provider can estimate your vitamin D status by measuring your levels of calcifediol .
However, vitamin D2 seems to yield less calcifediol than an equal amount of vitamin D3.
Most studies show that vitamin D3 is more effective than vitamin D2 at raising blood levels of calcifediol (
If you are taking vitamin D supplements, consider choosing vitamin D3.
Summary Vitamin D3 appears to be better than D2 at improving vitamin D status.
Editorial Sources And Fact
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Synthetic Analogs Of Vitamin D
Maxacalcitol is the first analog found to have a wider therapeutic window than 1,252D3.
Calcipotriol is derived from calcitriol was first discovered during trials involving the use of vitamin D for treating osteoporosis.
Dihydrotachysterol is a synthetic form of vitamin D that many consider superior to natural D2 and D3. It becomes active by the liver without needing to go through hydroxylation in the kidneys.
Paricalcitol is also derived from calcitriol. It is the first of the new vitamin D analogs to be approved for secondary hyperparathyroidism and differs from calcitriol in that it lacks the exocyclic carbon 19 and has a vitamin D2 side chain instead of a vitamin D3 side chain.
Tacalcitol is a derivative of vitamin D3. It is known to hinder keratinocytes in the skin.
Doxercalciferol D2) is a prodrug and must be activated in vivo. It is less toxic than 1 D3 when administered chronically.
Falecalcitriol 2-26, 27-F6-D3) is approved for secondary hyperparathyroidism in Japan. It is more active than calcitriol because of its slower metabolism.
Are Sprays Better Than Tablets
There’s no evidence to suggest this is a more effective way to absorb vitamin D, despite what some companies’ marketing implies.
A randomised, controlled trial , concluded that sprays are just as effective as tablets, but not better.
Many of the volunteers did say that they preferred the spray to taking a tablet, which is understandable – supplement fatigue can kick in if you’re having to to take other medicines in tablet form daily.
If you’re more likely to stick to taking vitamin D regularly if it’s in spray or gummy form it might be worth forking out the extra cost – you can shop around for the cheapest deals using our pricing tips above.
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What Foods Have Vitamin D
Only a few foods contain vitamin D. Vitamin D can be found in foods and supplements as either D2 or D3.
Food sources of vitamin D2 include:
- Fortified foods containing D2
- Oily fish and fish oil
- Fortified foods containing D3
Since D2 is cheaper to produce, its the most common form in fortified foods.
Getting Enough Vitamin D
If all this has made you think twice about where your vitamin supplements come from, the good news is that during the summer months at least you should be able to get enough Vitamin D simply by heading outside every day.
Are there any other supplements you are curious about? Let us know in the comments below!
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Vegan Vitamin D Capsules
Capsules are what most people imagine of when thinking of vitamin supplements. Alas, many vitamin D tablets and capsules contain a non-vegan source of vitamin D3, such as sheep lanolin or fish oils.
Dont worry though, we have a solution! Our Mushroom Vegan Vitamin D Capsules contain 25µg of vitamin D2 in each capsule and you only have to take one a day.
Starting To Feel Better
After starting your doctor’s recommended dosage, the question is, when will it work? The answer isn’t the same for everyone.
The National Institutes of Health states that the more depleted you are, the longer it takes for changes to occur. An article in the September 2016 issue of the Journal of Oncology Practice says that, generally, after a few weeks of treatment, vitamin D levels will increase at 1 ng/mL for every 40 IU taken. You should start feeling better once the vitamin D kicks in, but you should still have your levels checked every two to three months.
Remember it’s always easier to avoid deficiency than it is to rebuild your system. So pay attention to what your body is telling you.
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