The Importance of SUN!

Written by: Elsie Velazquez cert. Personal Trainer at Prescription Fitness

Vitamin D, also referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, is produced by the body when exposed to sun.  It can also be consumed in food or supplements.  Despite its name, vitamin D is actually considered a pro-hormone.  Vitamins cannot be created by the body and must be taken in through food or other forms.  Vitamin D, however, can by created by our body when sunlight hits the skin.  Getting enough vitamin D is important for many reasons.  Below are some of the benefits of making sure you are taking in enough vitamin D:

  • Helps maintain the health of bones by regulating calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood.  These two factors are extremely important for maintaining healthy bones.  Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease among post-menopausal women and older men.
  • Supports the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system.
  • Regulates insulin levels and aid diabetes management. Several studies have shown that a healthy blood concentration of vitamin D in the body can decrease risk of type 2 diabetes. In those with type 2 diabetes, low vitamin D levels can negatively affect insulin secretion and glucose tolerance.
  • Supports lung function and cardiovascular health. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma severity.
  • Defend against cancer development.  Vitamin D is extremely important for regulating cell growth. Studies have suggested that vitamin D can reduce cancer progression by slowing the growth and development of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue.  Vitamin D influences more than 200 human genes, which could be impaired when we do not have enough vitamin D.

The recommended intake of vitamin D depends on age.  The intake recommendations are currently set at the following by the U.S. Institutes of Medicine:

  • Infants 0-12 months – 400 IU (10 mcg).
  • Children 1-18 years – 600 IU (15 mcg).
  • Adults to age 70 – 600 IU (15 mcg).
  • Adults over 70 – 800 IU (20 mcg).
  • Pregnant or lactating women – 600 IU (15 mcg).

Although vitamin D supplements can be taken, it is best to obtain it through natural sources wherever possible.  The most natural way is sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times a week.  This will allow most people to produce sufficient vitamin D.  Keep in mind that vitamin D breaks down quickly so your body can run low, especially in winter.  Also worth noting is the fact that using sunscreen with SPF 30 can reduce the body’s ability to synthesize the vitamin by 95 percent. For the body to start vitamin D production, the skin has to be directly exposed to sunlight.  Vitamin D can also be found in salmon, tuna, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.