People at Risk for Low Vitamin D Levels
Some people are more prone to being deficient in Vitamin D and, therefore, should be supplementing to avoid deficiency. They include people who:
have darker skin pigmentation.
spend most of their time indoors.
have kidney or liver disease.
have celiac disease or other malabsorption conditions.
have a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 25.
live far away from the equator.
use sunscreen whenever they are outside (it prevents skin cancer, but it also blocks the absorption of Vitamin D naturally).
Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency
Not having enough Vitamin D in your body may result in problems with your bones, teeth, and immune system. You can develop major diseases, such as osteoporosis and osteomalacia. Other health problems linked to low vitamin D levels include cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
More subtle symptoms of low vitamin D levels include: depression, bone pain or tenderness and muscle pain and weakness.
Natural Sources for Vitamin D
Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because our body naturally produces it when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, most of us in Canada are not able to get adequate levels of Vitamin D from sunlight alone, especially since we spent a lot of time indoors or bundled up during the cold weather.
Other natural sources of Vitamin D includes fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), egg yolks, and organ meats. Vitamin D has also been added to many products, such as milk, yogurt, juice, bread, and cereal.
SUMMARY Vitamin D is made in the skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. Sun exposure is by far the best way to boost vitamin D levels, particularly because very few foods contain significant amounts.
The Bottom Line
Regular sun exposure is the most natural way to get enough vitamin D.
To maintain healthy blood levels, aim to get 10–30 minutes of midday sunlight, several times per week. People with darker skin may need a little more than this. Your exposure time should depend on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight. Just make sure not to burn.
Factors that can affect your ability to make vitamin D from sunlight include the time of day, your skin color, how far you live from the equator, how much skin you expose to sunlight and whether you’re wearing sunscreen.
For example, people who live farther away from the equator typically need more sunlight because the sun’s UV rays are weaker in these areas.
They also need to take vitamin D supplements or eat more vitamin-D-rich foods during the winter months, since they cannot make it from sunlight.
If you’re planning to stay in the sun for a while, it’s best to apply sunscreen after 10–30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to help prevent sunburn and skin cancer.