The weather is warmer and the sun is setting later. This means that summer is finally here! The gloomy winter days are a thing of the past (for now!) and when the sun is shining, your skin is exposed to solar UVB radiation, which is then converted to pre-vitamin D in your skin, and then finally converted to a useable form of vitamin D called cholecalciferol or vitamin D3. By contrast, in the winter months, when sunlight is limited, your body reduces its Vitamin D production, which may lead to a deficiency.
Low Vitamin D Linked to Various Health Conditions
Research shows that vitamin D deficiencies has been linked to various health conditions such as autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Furthermore, several studies show that properly maintained vitamin D levels may help to increase bone mineral density and can play a preventative role in the development of osteoporosis.
Don’t Get Too Much Sun Exposure
As you can see, it’s important to get enough vitamin D in your life. However, a word of caution is in order: The sun’s rays can be harmful, so be careful not to overdo it by spending too much time in the sun. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization has identified solar UV as a proven human carcinogen, with studies linking it to the majority of both nonmelanoma and melanoma skin cancers, in addition to premature skin aging. Sun exposure for just 10-15 minutes just two to three times a week will provide you with a good amount of vitamin D. However, some experts caution that even just those unprotected 10-15 minutes are more than enough time to cause DNA damage, which adds up throughout your lifetime. Unfortunately, the very same UVB wavelengths that make vitamin D on your skin are the wavelengths that produce sunburn and genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer.
Boost Your Vitamin D with Diet and Supplements
In order to best protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays (you still get some even with sunscreen!), you can also acquire vitamin D from a combination of diet and supplements. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna are especially good sources, as well as egg yolks, beef liver, and cheese. Many common foods such as milk and orange juice are fortified with vitamin D. If you’re not a fan of those foods and don’t want to do the math required to take in all of your vitamin D through foods, supplements may be a good option.
Through a combination of food, supplements, and incidental sun exposure you can get all the vitamin D you need, without subjecting yourself to the multiple risks of unprotected sun exposure. If you have questions on what supplements you should take daily that can also help boost your vitamin D take our supplement quiz!
- Haimi, M., Kremer, R. 2017. Vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency from childhood to adulthoold: Insights from a sunny country. World Journal of Clinical Pediatrics, Feb 8; 6(1): 1-9.
- Neale, R. E., Khan, S. R., Lucas, R. M., Waterhouse, M., Whiteman, D. C., & Olsen, C. M. (2019). The effect of sunscreen on Vitamin D: A Review. British Journal of Dermatology, 181(5), 907–915. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjd.17980
- Sun Protection and vitamin D. The Skin Cancer Foundation. (2020, July 7). Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://www.skincancer.org/blog/sun-protection-and-vitamin-d/
- Wacker, M., Holick, M. F. 2013. Vitamin D – Effects on skeletal and extraskeletal health and the need for supplementation. Nutrients, Jan; 5(1): 111-148.
- Wartian Smith, Pamela. (2008). What you must know about vitamins, minerals, herbs & more. Garden City, NY: Square One Publishers.