The sun is one of the best sources of vitamin D for the human body. Several factors affect how much vitamin D a person’s body can make from exposure to the sun, such as time of day, geographical location, skin color, and wearing sunscreen.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for the body. The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Vitamin D also plays a role in bone growth, bone healing, and immune system function.
How do you get vitamin D from the sun?
The body needs a steady source of vitamin D for many different processes.
The sun is our best natural source of vitamin D. Spending even a short time in the sun can provide the body with all of the vitamin D it needs for the day. According to the Vitamin D Council, this could be:
-15 minutes for a person with light skin
-a couple of hours for a person with dark skin
Very few foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D, so people can ensure they get enough of the vitamin by scheduling regular time outdoors.
When the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit a person’s skin, processes inside the tissue start making vitamin D for the body to use. It is essential to remember, however, that too much sun exposure can burn the skin and potentially lead to skin cancer.
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, which is one of the main building blocks of bone. The body also needs vitamin D to keep the nerves, muscles, and immune system working properly.
Vitamin D deficiencies can cause soft bone conditions such as rickets or osteomalacia, and the porous, fragile bone condition called osteoporosis.
Tips for getting vitamin D from the sun
When the sun’s rays hit the skin, processes inside the tissues start making vitamin D.
People do not need to get a tan or burn to get vitamin D from the sun. The body will make all the vitamin D it needs for a day in about half the time it takes the skin to burn.
Many factors affect how much vitamin D a person gets from the sun, such as:
-Time of day: The skin produces more vitamin D when in the sun during the middle of the day, the time it is at its highest point in the sky. When spending prolonged time in the hot sun, wear sunscreen, and stay hydrated.
-Amount of skin exposed: The more skin a person exposes, the more vitamin D the body will make. Exposing the back, for instance, allows the body to produce more vitamin D than just the hands and face.
-Skin color: Pale color skin makes vitamin D more quickly than darker colored skins.
Where a person lives in relation to the equator also has a significant impact on how much vitamin D their bodies can make.
In the United States, people in the sunnier southern states will find it easier to meet their vitamin D needs with sun exposure than those in the northern states. This is especially true in the winter months when the sun is lower in the sky.
Frequent, moderate exposure to the sun is healthful, but prolonged exposure can be dangerous.
It is important to note that when someone stays in the sun so long that their skin burns, they have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
Current advice is for people to stay in the sun for half as long as it takes their particular skin type to burn before covering up and retiring to the shade. This should give them all the vitamin D they need without increasing the risk of skin cancer.
What factors prevent you from getting vitamin D from the sun?
Wearing sunscreen limits the body’s ability to make vitamin D. However, spending time in the sun without sunscreen can cause sunburn and may contribute to the development of skin cancer.
The body cannot make vitamin D when exposed to the sun’s rays through a window as the glass blocks the sun’s UVB rays.
Some people’s skin is less able to make vitamin D than others. Others may not be able to adequately release vitamin D into their blood circulation from fat cells.
Also, certain individuals may not activate vitamin D to a usable state. These people may find themselves at risk of vitamin D deficiency, including:
-people with darker skin
-people who are obese
-people with kidney or liver disease