Summer Smart Sunshine Tips to Boost Vitamin D Levels
TORONTO, Ont. (April 6, 2017) – The daylight hours are getting longer, the sun is getting stronger and summer is just around the corner. Make this the year that you optimize your vitamin D levels through effective sun exposure. Enjoy the health benefits and disease prevention from optimal vitamin D levels and learn to control your risks from sun exposure.
Vitamin D is made naturally in your body when UVB rays from the sun convert cholesterol in your skin to pre-vitamin D3. We make about 90% of our vitamin D from UVB sun exposure. UVB rays are short and only reach the earth when the sun is directly above us. We can’t make vitamin D in the winter in Canada because the sun is at too low of an angle and the UVB rays are absorbed in the atmosphere.
You make vitamin D in Canada between the months of May and October. The best time for exposure is around midday, between 10am and 2pm, when the UV index is above 3 and your shadow is shorter than your height. The further you get from noon, the lower the amount of vitamin D you’ll make. The sun’s visible light may penetrate through glass, but UVB light will not therefore you will not make vitamin D.
Full body sun exposure at non-burning levels can create between 10,000-25,000 IU of vitamin D in your skin. You can never get too much vitamin D from the sun as your skin self regulates itself, whereas ingesting vitamin D does not have the same control. In addition, vitamin D that you make from the sun lasts twice as long in your body as vitamin D taken through supplements or food.
Statistics Canada reports that Canadian vitamin D levels have dropped by 10% over the past six years. The root cause of this decrease is lower sunshine exposure. People are just not getting outside around midday in the summer and making vitamin D and when they are outside they are using sunscreen which if applied correctly prevents 95%+ of vitamin D production.
In Canada, 12 million Canadians (35%) have vitamin D blood levels below the recommendations from Health Canada. This puts these people at a higher risk for several diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and many more. In fact, a study completed in 2016 reported that if Canadians increased their vitamin D levels to the recommended level of 100 nmol/L, we would save $12.5B in healthcare costs and 23,000 premature deaths annually.
A recent study reported that women who avoided the sun have twice the risk of all cause death. The authors said that “avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking.”
Skin cancer is a concern and risk of sun exposure must be managed and balanced with the benefits from vitamin D and other photoproducts. Research has shown that people with higher sun exposure such as outdoor workers, who have 3-10 times the sun exposure as indoor workers, have a lower incidence of melanoma. The National Cancer Institute reports that melanoma risk is increased as a result of intermittent acute sun exposure leading to sunburn. People who are a skin type 1, with white or very pale skin colour, red or blonde hair colour and who always burn and never tan, should severely limit their sun exposure.
The Vitamin D Society offers the following tips:
- Know your own skin and skin type. Don’t burn. Never overexpose yourself.
- Acclimatize or condition your skin for sun exposure by gradually building or lengthening exposure times as your skin begins to tan to reduce your risk of burning
- Prevent burning and overexposure when required through the use of hats, clothing, shade and sunscreens
- For vitamin D get sun exposure at midday, between 10am and 2pm, when the UV index is above 3 and your shadow is shorter than your height
- Expose more skin for a shorter period of time to generate more vitamin D while reducing your risk of overexposure.
It’s important to manage the risk and enjoy the rewards of moderate sun exposure for good health. Cancer Research UK, through the Consensus Vitamin D Position Statement, offers the following recommendation: “Enjoy the sun safely while taking care not to burn, can help provide the benefits of vitamin D without unduly raising the risk of skin cancer.”
“This advice may go against what current health organizations recommend,” says Perry Holman, Executive Director of the Vitamin D Society. “They typically recommend you stay out of the sun at midday and use sunscreen when outdoors. But this would reduce your potential vitamin D production and does not consider the benefits as well as the risks of sun exposure on overall health. You need to have balance.”
About the Vitamin D Society:
The Vitamin D Society is a Canadian non-profit group organized to increase awareness of the many health conditions strongly linked to vitamin D deficiency; encourage people to be proactive in protecting their health and have their vitamin D levels tested annually; and help fund valuable vitamin D research. The Vitamin D Society recommends people achieve and maintain optimal 25(OH)D blood levels between 100 – 150 nmol/L (Can) or 40-60 ng/ml (USA).
To learn more about vitamin D, please visit www.vitamindsociety.org