Sunlight and Vitamin D

It’s the first day of summer, and today was a gorgeous sunny day in the Northeast. Time to look at the benefits of sunlight and the dispel some of the fear that has been generated about sun exposure in recent years. Human beings evolved in a warm, sunny climate, and our bodies rely on sunlight, not food sources to produce Vitamin D.So much fear has been generated about skin cancers that many people never allow their skin to reap the benefits of healing sunlight (without Vitamin D-blocking sunscreens.)

And ironically, it is nutritional deficiencies of Vitamin D and antioxidants that can make us more prone to skin cancers. It is estimated that for every case of skin cancer eliminated by avoiding sun exposure or sunscreen use, there are 20 or more cases of breast or prostate cancer caused by the ensuing lack of Vitamin D!

It is now estimated that up to 70% of the population is deficient in Vitamin D, and Vitamin D deficiency is implicated as a factor in at least 17 different cancers, auto-immune diseases, heart disease, chronic pain, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, diabetes, depression, the flu and many other health problems. Check out the Vitamin D Council for more info.

Healthy sun exposure is the amount of sun your skin can tolerate without burning. That will vary with your skin tone, and also with the amount of antioxidants you ingest. When I was a child I used to burn very easily – now, as an adult who eats a high antioxidant diet, my skin can handle a much greater amount of sun without burning. If you are dark-skinned, you will be able to tolerate more time in the sun, and also be more likely to be deficient in Vitamin D.

I recommend that everyone get their Vitamin D levels checked at least yearly; the correct blood test to get is 25-OH Vit. D. Optimal levels are now recommended to be 60-80ng/ml. Many doctors will say you are fine if your level is above 30. This is not high enough according to the most up to date research. Most people need 2000-5000 I.U. of Vitamin D3 per day just to maintain their levels. For those of us far from the equator, supplementation is absolutely necessary from fall through to late spring.

To raise low Vitamin D levels, if you cannot get it from regular sun exposure without sunscreen,  you may need a much higher intake – current recommendations are 5000-10,000 I.U. per day depending on your blood test results, and how well you absorb it. See a knowledgeable nutritionally oriented health practitioner to determine  your individual needs.

Happy Summer Solstice,


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filigreegirl - July 15, 2010

Thank you for this informative article. I find that having a yard and garden, with all of its required maintenance, is a great way to make sure I get outside regularly. It also guarantees physical exercise. I understand that isn’t an option or even a choice for everyone, but getting outside in the sunshine is good on so many levels, it’s worth the effort.

I am one of those who was a lucky child – “Go outside and play!” was a frequent refrain from my mother. Would like to hear more of children playing outside.

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