Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones. It helps absorb calcium and phosphate from the food we consume. These minerals are essential not just for healthy bones but also for healthy teeth and muscles as well. A lack of Vitamin D is linked to many health problems not just related to teeth, bones, and muscles but also to cardiovascular and mental health as well. It is therefore imperative to get your daily dose of Vitamin D.
So how do we get Vitamin D every day when almost half the population is deficient in this vitamin? Other than through supplements and diet, the easiest and most effective way to get your daily dose of vitamin D is through sunlight. Our body naturally creates vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin, specifically through UVB rays. There are a lot of factors that can determine the levels of vitamin D in your body including where you live, air quality, use of sunscreens, skin color, age, and body weight.
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Let’s dive into the details of these factors. The farther you live from the Equator, the less UVB rays reach the surface of the earth. This means that you would need more time in the sun than places that are closer to the equator. When it comes to air quality, the carbon particles that are released from pollution causing activities absorb UVB rays which would mean diminished vitamin D production. Sunscreens also block absorption of UVB rays but most people do not use sunscreens as directed and irregularly as well so this may not actually contribute to lower vitamin D levels as much as we would think.
Skin color is determined by the amount of melanin in the skin. It also absorbs UVB rays in competition with the cholesterol that converts into vitamin D. This means that darker skinned people have to spend more time in the sun to make sufficient amounts of vitamin D. When it comes to age, older people have diminished capacity to make vitamin D and hence would require more sunshine than younger people. Body fat also soaks up and stores vitamin D, however this isn’t the case for people who are obese since they tend to take longer to absorb the required UVB rays to make vitamin D.
Since it is unknown exactly how much time is needed in the sun to meet daily requirements, it is best advised to enjoy the sunshine before the sun gets too hot and to take care not to burn your skin. If you are darker skinned, you can safely spend more time in the sun with sufficient areas of your body exposed. Use a sunscreen for the rest of time and don’t sit in the sun for prolonged periods without this protection.
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