As I pack to head across the country to southern California for some time away, I look forward the beach, the warm weather and of course, the sun. Many of us get a craving for sunshine at this time of year and as we head into the winter months, often this “craving” increases and many of us find ourselves feeling lethargic or even feeling depressed and ill. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, shows that people with the lowest vitamin D levels have more than double the risk of heart disease and other causes over an eight-year period compared with those with the highest vitamin D levels. The researchers cite it is possible that “decreased outdoor activity” as one reason that people may become deficient in vitamin D.
During the winter months, it’s fairly impossible to produce vitamin D from the sun if you live north of Atlanta because the sun doesn’t get high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to penetrate the atmosphere. When the sun’s UV-B rays hit the skin, a reaction takes place that enables skin cells to manufacture vitamin D.
Experts say that more fair skinned persons are able to go outside for 10 minutes in the midday sun—in shorts and a tank top with no sunscreen—will give you enough radiation to produce about 10,000 international units of the vitamin. People with darker skin tones Dark-skinned individuals and the elderly also produce less vitamin D, and many folks don’t get enough of the nutrient from dietary sources like fatty fish and fortified milk.
The government has reported dietary recommendations are 200 IUs a day up to age 50, 400 IUs to age 70, and 600 IUs over 70. Many experts believe that these recommendations are actually too low to maintain healthful vitamin D levels. It has been suggested that people seek Vitamin D supplementation in the winter of about 2,000 IUs per day and a dose of daily sunshine in the summer.
It has been reported that Vitamin D may protect against a host of diseases, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon. What’s more, sunlight has other hidden benefits—like protecting against depression, insomnia, and an overactive immune system.
So how to we get just enough Vitamin D? UV radiation doesn’t penetrate glass; so we cannot get our Vitamin D while driving in our car. Even if you’re driving in a convertible, though, you probably won’t get a good dose of UV-B rays if you’re driving in the early morning when the sun is still low in the sky. Talking a stroll during lunchtime for about 10-15 minutes is your best bet, getting just enough to be considered healthy but be sure not to over-expose.