Jun 11 , 2021
Summer! As we bathe in the summer sun, we are often asked questions like “Does sunscreen give me vitamin D deficient?” or “Do I still need to supplement VD even in the summer?”
In this blog, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about vitamin D, and reasons why you might still need to supplement it, EVEN in the summer.
Vitamin D Comes from all these sources
I. Sun. There's a good reason why vitamin D is nicknamed “the sunshine vitamin.” The sun is the major natural source of this nutrient. When sunlight hits the skin, it makes vitamin D from cholecalciferol.
II. Food. Vitamin D is naturally found in a small number of foods such as oily fish and egg yolks. It is added to fortified foods like breakfast cereals.
Synthesis from the Sun & Supplements
When sunlight hits the skin, our bodily stores of 7-dehydrocholesterol (a derivative of cholesterol) converts to cholecalciferol (D3). Vitamin D3 tends to be better absorbed than other forms of vitamin D and is then readily subject to metabolism in the liver. Oral supplementation of vitamin D3 as cholecalciferol leaves out the step of conversion, making it a popular choice for many.
Vitamin D deficiency
A number of factors influence a person’s vitamin D levels: a person’s location, age, weight, ethnicity, and the air quality of where he/she live. According to the CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), approximately 90% of Americans of color and 70% of elderly Americans are vitamin D deficient. Studies have shown that being overweight is correlated with low vitamin D levels and may affect the bioavailability of vitamin D. While there are NO studies found that everyday sunscreen use leads to vitamin D insufficiency, experimental studies support the theoretical risk that sunscreen use may affect vitamin D. Another worry associated with sunscreen is UVB damage.
Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which consists of different types of rays: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). UVB rays interact with a protein called 7-DHC in the skin, converting it into vitamin D3, but it is to blame for sunburnt, most skin cancers, skin aging, and snow blindness. UVA also contributes to skin damage and premature aging.
Delivering Vitamin D
You can make your vitamin D the old-fashioned way by exposing your skin to sunlight. Summer is easier than ever to get plenty of sunlight, but many find it easy to overdose on UVB. Not to mention that no matter how much sunscreen you use or how high the SPF, no sunscreen protects you completely. SPF 15 sunscreen filters out 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 97%, and SPF 50 98%. This leaves anywhere from 2 to 7 percent of UVB reaching your skin, causing premature aging and wrinkles.
There are a lot of food sources for Vitamin D in your diet, especially if you are a non-vegetarian. But with that said, it is highly unlikely to get all of this nutrient you need from diet alone. Oily fish is the best natural source of vitamin D, but you'll have to eat about 5 ounces of salmon, 30 ounces of cod, or nearly two 8-ounce cans of tuna to get just 400 IU. An egg yolk contains about 20 IU, but since it also contains nearly a day's quota of cholesterol, you can't dwell on it to fill up your VD tank.
Do I Need to Supplement VD in the summer?
As we said, it is not a simple question of yes or no. Before making up your mind on supplements you need to consider these factors:
I. Your current VD levels
Though standards vary, it is agreed upon that levels of 25(OH)D below 20 ng/ml reflect clear-cut vitamin D inadequacy. Take a vitamin D blood test. If your VD level is below 25, talk to your doctor about supplements. If anywhere ranges from 25-50, you might still be running a little bit low on VD. Again, talk to your healthcare provider and seek professional advice on whether or not should you take a vitamin D supplement and how much do you need.
II. Your lifestyle
It’s hard to be vitamin D deficient back in the days when most men roll up their sleeves and work in the fields. But indoor lifestyle, office job and sunscreen have change the game. Vitamin D is also considered missing from vegan or vegetarian diets. Always keep an eye on your vitamin D levels and consider taking supplement when needed if you have certain diet preference.
III. Your age, skin color, weight & health condition
Elderly, people with darker skin color and obesity are at higher risk of vitamin D inadequacy. Certain health conditions might also lead to the risk of vitamin D deficiency. People with chronic kidney disease, long-term steroids, and expectant and breastfeeding mothers should consult a healthcare provider on taking vitamin D supplements.
IV. Where you live
If you happen to live in a place where it rains all year round, you might wanna consider a VD supplement. Carbon particles in the air absorb UVB rays, thus diminishing vitamin D production. These particles result from the burning of fossil fuels, wood, and other materials scatter and is definitely a reason to consider supplementing on some sunshine.