Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Sunshine or Supplement?
A little bit of both. Sunlight exposure produces most of the vitamin D needed for the day. Vitamin D supplement helps individuals at risk for deficiency, like those who spend most of their time indoors.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, is a fat-soluble vitamin mostly sourced from the sun. It helps maintain bone health (both growth and formation), regulate absorption and balance of calcium in the blood which results in stronger bones, regulate normal immune system function, and improve resistance against various diseases. It also, impacts thousands of genes within the body and plays many other roles in the body’s health.
Vitamin D is the only vitamin that is produced independently by the body through sun exposure, and it can be obtained from some dietary intake of fortified foods (i.e. breakfast cereals, milk, and grains).
How much do you need?
This depends on many factors, including the amount of sunlight exposure you get without a sunscreen (sunscreen with SPF factor of 8 or greater reduces production of vitamin D by 95%), season, skin color or tone, genetics, air pollution, location, diet and overall health. Skin color is an extremely important factor. Dark-skin pigments may have a greater chance of vitamin D deficiency due to higher levels of melanin which act as natural sun protection. Research shows that dark-skinned people require 6 times more sun exposure to produce the equivalent vitamin D as a light-skinned person.
Dminder is a useful app for those concerned with skin cancer. The dminder app calculates the amount of sunlight that can be absorbed without risking skin cancer. Based on skin type, the app determines the adequate amount of sunlight needed for vitamin D production. It can also calculate how many IUs is being synthesized while outdoors. Most importantly, an alarm will be activated when it’s time to get out of the sun!
How much is recommended?
A simple blood test can help determine vitamin D level. Vitamin D levels will vary depending on the season in the year. It may be a good idea to get tested in the middle of the winter and then again in the summer. The Vitamin D Council provides a quick summary and interpretation of various vitamin D levels and specifically what it means for your health.
The FDA recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D for most adults range from 600-800 IU (International Unit used to measure fat soluble vitamins) per day. However, some individuals may need more to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.