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10 facts you need to know about vitamin D and sunshine

Two men relaxing at the beach in the winter sun
Two men relaxing at the beach in the winter sun
(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
  1. We know vitamin D plays a role in helping the body absorb calcium, in maintaining bone density, and in preventing osteoporosis. New research tells us it may also help protect against diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, infections such as tuberculosis and periodontal disease and autoimmune diseases.
  2. Natural sunlight exposure (ultraviolet-B rays) is the only reliable way to generate vitamin D in your body (but not through a window). Researchers have found that approximately 5-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually lead to sufficient vitamin D synthesis.
  3. D is the only vitamin that is also a hormone; it is activated in your body by your kidneys and liver, controlling calcium absorption and helping the body build strong bones, teeth and muscle strength.
  4. D 2 found in most multivitamins, does not deliver the same amount of the vitamin to the body as the D 3 form.
  5. Without sufficient vitamin D, your body cannot absorb calcium, rendering calcium supplements useless.
  6. People with potentially high risk for vitamin D deficiencies include the elderly, obese individuals, exclusively breastfed infants, and those who have limited sun exposure. Those with fat malabsorption syndromes (e.g., cystic fibrosis) or inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., Cohn’s disease) are at risk.
  7. People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 to 30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fair-skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D.
  8. Even weak sunscreens (SPF 8) block your body’s ability to generate vitamin D.
  9. While many researchers believe the doses should be higher, the current daily recommended doses are: 200 IU for children and adults up to 50 years of age, 400 IU for adults 51 to 70 years of age, and 600 IU for adults 71 years of age or older.
  10. The National Osteoporosis Foundation guideline recommends a daily intake of 800 to 1,000 IU for adults over 50. Due to toxicities that can occur when taken in higher doses, the recommended upper limit (UL) for vitamin D is 2,000 IU daily.



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