Thursday, August 11, 2011

Let the sun shine on you!

Over the years, we have been taught that nothing good can come out of the sun. We have been told to put on sunscreen every time we step out of our houses. Well, it's true that constant exposure to UV can damage skin cells and increase the risk for skin cancer. However, a little sunlight is indispensable in order to get the required dose of a very important vitamin: Vitamin D.

What does Vitamin D have to do with the sun?
Yes! Your body can produce the amount of Vitamin D it needs from sunlight. In fact, UVB transforms a cholesterol compound into a precursor of the vitamin; then, in the next day and a half, the kidney and liver will release its active form.

What if I don’t get it?
Providing yourself with the right amount of Vitamin D is important for many reasons:

It regulates blood calcium and phosphorus levels through different mechanisms. In fact, vitamin D prevents breakdown of bones and loss of calcium in urine.
It’s a hormone that affects cells growth, multiplication and specialization.
It influences over 30 body tissues, from hair follicles to the immune system.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause the bones to become soft, flexible, brittle and deformed. If left untreated, it will lead to osteoporosis (disease of bones which leads to an increased risk of fracture). Plus, research shows that deficit can also cause several other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, skin disease, infections and even certain cancers.

How much vitamin D and sun exposure do I need?

Age group
Vitamin D recommendations
19-50 years
5 mcg
51-70 years
10 mcg
>70 years
15 mcg

Skin type
Duration of sun exposure*
Light skin with sunscreen
10-30 min
Light skin without sunscreen
5 min
Dark Skin
3 hours

*It is very important to expose a large area of the body in order to get the sufficient amount of vitamin needed. Wear short-sleeves, dresses, shorts, skirts… and for veiled women, try to find a secluded area where you can remove you “abaya” so you can benefit from the sun.

What if I can’t expose myself to sun?
You can always get your vitamin D from food sources: fortified milk, fortified cereals, cod liver oil, salmon, tuna and sardines.

Bottom line is: Don’t be afraid of the sun. It has its benefits. So go outdoors, enjoy yourself! Just don’t put oil and fry yourself for hours at the beach! 


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