For many years it has been known that exposure to sunlight is crucial for health, this is especially so in the case of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is synthesised when our skin comes into contact with UV light from the sun, it is also attained via eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or eggs but on a much smaller scale.
A healthy vitamin D status is crucial for many aspects of health from immunity to bone health, it’s been recommended for children to take vitamin D supplements to avoid rickets.
Rickets is a defective mineralization or calcification of bones in young people before their bones reach maturity. It affects the growth plates at the end of long bones such as the leg bones, due to deficiency or impaired metabolism of vitamin D, phosphorus or calcium. Rickets is extremely common in developing countries and can cause deformities.
The problem we have in countries such as England is the lack of sun and believe or not vitamin D deficiency is becoming more common in hotter climates too due to shopping malls with air cons, tinted windows in cars and people being afraid of sun exposure. Now sun burn is certainly something we want to avoid for obvious health reasons but we need sun exposure too, it’s a careful balance.
It’s thought that a SPF over 6 blocks us from getting the sunlight we need for vitamin D synthesis.
According to the NHS website “Most people can make enough vitamin D from being out in the sun daily for short periods with their forearms, hands or lower legs uncovered and without sunscreen from late March or early April to the end of September, especially from 11am to 3pm” this is in the UK and for adults so other countries may differ and those with darker skin may need longer in the sun to produce adequate amounts but be careful of sunburn.
Let’s say you work night shifts for example and you sleep through the day, then a vitamin D supplement may be of use. In fact almost everyone in the UK could do with a vitamin D boost in the winter months, it’s also thought to help the effects of SAD seasonal affective disorder where people find themselves getting down through the winter months.
Vitamin D can also be crucial in increasing testosterone levels as shown in this paper by Pilz S, et al Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men.
When all is said an done it’s certainly worth taking into account vitamin D and while many of us may not be deficient we could quite likely have less than optimal levels.