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Sun Exposure and Vitamin D

Posted May 18 2012 11:14am

Suntan There’s something about a beautiful spring or summer day, when the sun is shining bright, that just makes you feel good . And there’s good reason, sunshine provides us with a very important nutrient – Vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that is important to calcium absorption, bone growth, heart health, and warding off certain cancers, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. And when it comes to the feel-good feelings we experience, exposure to sunlight protects against mental health issues as well, including depression and insomnia. Unfortunately, in the United States, only people who live south of a line drawn from Los Angeles to Columbia, South Carolina, get enough sunlight for vitamin D production throughout the year.

The best way to get vitamin D is from exposure to the sun, yet too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. How much sun you need to synthesize vitamin D varies depending on your climate and skin type. Many individuals who live in cloudy, cold or more temperate climates tend to be deficient in the nutrient, while the use of sunscreen tends to hinder our ability to manufacture it.

The government’s recommended daily intake of Vitamin D is 200 IUs a day up to age 50, 400 IUs to age 70, and 600 IUs over 70. But many experts believe these recommendations are too low. Some even urge individuals to supplement in the winter with about 2,000 IUs per day.

As you can imagine, this is a bit of a catch 22. If you want to get the best source of the nutrient, then you should play in the sunshine…unprotected. If, however, you want to be safe from skin cancer, you should minimize your sun exposure as much as possible. As a result, it is recommended you wear sunscreen to protect your skin from skin cancer and take supplements to ensure you’re getting sufficient vitamin D in your diet. If you don’t get much exposure to the sun, consider taking a daily supplement that provides 1,000 IUs per day.

Are you getting enough Vitamin D? Do you protect your skin and take supplements or do you prefer to get your dose through sun exposure?

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