Are you as happy as I am that the sun is out? This is the perfect time to top up your vitamin D levels. Whilst many of us are so paranoid of sunlight these days that illnesses like rickets have made a reappearance in this country, sensible sun exposure can be a positive part of our health and wellness care.
Most of us know that we need vitamin D for healthy bones; however, it is now known that most tissues and cells in our body have a vitamin D receptor and that it plays an important part in our overall health, including our immune system.
There are three ways in which we can get vitamin D: Exposure to sunlight (UVB), diet and dietary supplements. Michael F. Holick, M.D., Ph.D. concludes in his review article of The New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med 2007;357:266-81) that “Unless a person eats oily fish frequently, it is very difficult to obtain that much vitamin D3 on a daily basis from dietary sources.” Dr. Holick recommends sensible sun exposure as well as taking a dietary supplement of at least 800 IU of vitamin D3 per day.
So what does “sensible sun exposure” mean exactly? The general advice is, that exposure of face, hands and arms without sunscreen between 5 to 30 minutes per day should be enough, but that depends on the time of year, time of day, weather, skin colour, where we are including what kind of surface we are on (concrete, lawn, snow etc.). Just a bit confusing, right? Well, if you’d like to narrow it down a bit, I have found a website where you can calculate how much sun exposure you personally need for healthy vitamin D levels: http://nadir.nilu.no/~olaeng/fastrt/VitD-ez_quartMEDandMED_v2.html. It even tells you how much would be too much. Nobody wants to get burned after all or increase their risk of skin cancer – eek! A good quality sun protection lotion is essential if you want to spend any decent amount of time outdoors in the summer.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which means that it is stored in body fat and released in the winter when we’re not getting any – sunshine that is. At this point I’d like to point out that low fat diets are doing our vitamin D levels no good at all, we need a healthy level of fat in our bodies, that’s just by the by. With fat-soluble vitamins we also need to make sure we’re not getting up to a toxic level, more is not always better. The cool thing with sunlight though is that any excess vitamin D is destroyed by sunlight so there’s no danger of intoxication.
I call that good news and you will find me henceforth on my sun lounger with a book in my hands – wishing everyone a beautiful, safe and happy summer 🙂