Summer is approaching! It is the warmest season of the year that favors outdoor activities. We love barbecues, outdoor sports, strolling at the beach or dipping in the nearest pool. But aside from enjoying these fun events, there are also health benefits that can be obtained while the weather is bright and promising.
The sun helps in the production of vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin needed to have strong bones and healthy teeth. Studies have shown that vitamin D also helps in building a strong immune system that protects us from illnesses and prevents tumor growth.
Lack of vitamin D in the body is often referred to as vitamin D deficiency. This happens when vitamin D present in the body is less than the recommended levels over time. It is caused by one or several factors such as inadequate exposure to sunlight, inability of kidney or liver to convert it into its active form or insufficient absorption of the vitamin from the intestines. Whatever the cause is, vitamin D deficiency leads to bone related diseases such as rickets for children, osteomalacia and osteoporosis for adults.
So in order to avoid these bone problems, the daily recommended allowance for vitamin D must be met. Aside from sunlight exposure, vitamin D can also be obtained from food and dietary supplements. The flesh of catfishes, eels, mackerels, salmons and tunas, as well as fish liver oils is the best natural source of vitamin D. Variable amounts of vitamin D can also be obtained from beef liver, cheese, egg and some mushrooms. It is also available in bread, cereals, margarine, milk and orange juice fortified with vitamin D2 and/or vitamin D3. However, a healthful diet and a little exposure to sunlight are still the best ways to get the right amount of vitamin D and other nutrients.
So what’s the recommended amount of sun exposure to get a sufficient dose of vitamin D in the human body? Generally, recommended sun exposure is 5 to 10 minutes, 3 times a week. However, adults ages 50 and up require more exposure to sunlight due to reduced ability of the skin to produce vitamin D. People with dark skin also require more exposure to sunlight because the amount of the pigment melanin present on their skin reduces its ability to produce the said vitamin. For breastfed babies, milk alone cannot meet the vitamin D requirement. A likely source of additional vitamin D is the sun. However, infants should be kept out of direct sunlight and wrapped in protective clothing.
So step out and welcome the warm sunshine! The human skin naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet B radiation and it is said that partial exposure to the sun several times a week is enough to provide most people with their complete vitamin D requirement. It is safe to limit skin exposure to direct sunlight in spite of its importance to vitamin D production because UV radiation is responsible for the many cases of skin cancer and metastatic melanoma that caused thousands of deaths that occur in the US every year.
That’s why people who enjoy sunbathing started using sunscreen as protection from sunburn and skin cancer. However, this reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D. But there’s no reason to worry. There are ways to boost your natural sunscreen to protect you while you get that vitamin D and enjoy the sunshine.