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Need Vitamin D, But Need to Watch the Sun? Here's How You Do It
  • Posted July 21, 2023

Need Vitamin D, But Need to Watch the Sun? Here's How You Do It

Your body needs vitamin D, the "sunshine" vitamin, but too much time in the sun can increase your risk for skin cancer.

An expert offers tips for boosting vitamin D intake while staying safe from the sun and this summer's record-high temperatures.

“Vitamin D is important for bone health, calcium absorption, reduction of inflammation, promoting cell growth and immune and cardiovascular support,” said Dr. Mike Ren, an assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“People can have vitamin D deficiency for a few months and be fine, but prolonged low levels can cause bone and thyroid health to deteriorate,” Ren said in a college news release.

Only about 10 to 30 minutes of daily direct sunlight exposure is needed to ensure vitamin production, Ren said. The body gets vitamin D when ultraviolet rays shine on the skin. The liver and kidneys then turn this into usable vitamin D.

Sunscreen and protective clothing can prevent sunlight absorption. But these safety measures are unlikely to severely impact vitamin D production.

“You don't need to go outside and bake to get your daily sunlight intake. Just take a few minutes out of your day to get some physical activity in the sun,” Ren advised.

Foods also provide this nutrient. With a well-balanced diet, people can get the necessary amount of vitamin D. It's contained in fatty fish, lean proteins, eggs and fortified dairy products. Supplements may also help.

“People can have different ailments that prevent them from getting vitamin D from food or sunlight so it's important for people to be aware of all their options,” Ren said. “It doesn't matter where you're getting your vitamin D from, either. Whether it be a combination of sun and diet or purely from supplements, all forms of intake can work.”

You should get your vitamin D levels checked at an annual checkup, Ren said. People with low vitamin D levels will initially be asymptomatic but annual testing can reveal deficiencies.

“If there is a serious vitamin D deficiency, your health care provider can put you on a care plan that involves prescribed supplements that have higher concentrations compared to over-the-counter supplements,” Ren said.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on vitamin D.

SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine, news release, July 20, 2023

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