Don’t you just love waking up to clear blue skies and the sun shining? It makes you feel happy, healthier and eager to get up and go. But there’s another reason why it’s good to be outside in the sun and that’s because exposure to sunlight is the primary source of Vitamin D for the majority of people.
Vitamin D, so called because it was the fourth vitamin to be named, is needed to help build strong bones and teeth and to deactivate the immune system once an infection has passed. It, also helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and works pretty much in harmony with calcium in the way the body uses it.
A deficiency can lead to deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain and tenderness in adults from osteomalacia, which is when the bones soften. A recent article suggested that a mother’s low vitamin D level was linked to an increased risk of cavities in their children1.
Though called a vitamin, it isn’t actually an essential dietary vitamin as it can be synthesised (made) from the sun, unlike an essential vitamin which can only be made in sufficient quantities from the diet. There are only small amounts of vitamin D in only a few foods, which is why it’s almost impossible to get what you need from food alone.
It can be found naturally in foods such as alfalfa, egg yolks, salmon, mackerel and sardines whilst some foods are fortified with it such as milk, cereals and orange juice. Interestingly, if you fry an egg in oil, you’ll lose more of the vitamin D than if the egg is poached – not sure why, it just is!
As you can see there are very few foods that naturally contain vitamin D so it’s important to ‘stock up’ on it from sunlight. A recent study2 in Sweden even suggests that mortality rates are higher in women who don't sunbathe in summer, compared to those that do, citing a deficiency in Vitamin D which led to aggressive skin cancer.
There are several considerations to take into account that will affect production of Vitamin D from the sunlight:
The NHS recommendations, which are based on research and evidence by SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee of Nutrition) in 2016 are as follows (this committee advises the government and other organisations):
Generally speaking, we should get sufficient vitamin D from a balanced diet and sunlight during the summer months, however, there has been some discussion within the UK about individuals supplementing with 10mcg/d of vitamin D3 during the winter months due to our skin being less efficient in synthesising vitamin D during the winter sunlight. This is especially important in those who are housebound or cover up completely when outdoors.
A word of caution with this though as it is possible to take too much, known as vitamin D toxicity and means the liver produces a chemical which causes high levels of calcium to develop in the blood. This can damage the kidneys. Further, too much vitamin D can encourage calcium to be removed from bones, which can soften and weaken them.
Really, it’s all about balance, as it is with everything.
Not that you need it, I’m sure, but now you have yet another reason to have a smile on your face when you see the sun shining and the sky that brilliant blue. Enjoy soaking up those rays from the brightest star in the sky – another of Nature’s perfect ingredients!
About Lucy Bee Limited
Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
Members of the Lucy Bee team are not medically trained and can only offer their best advice. Any information provided by us is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
Please note you should always refer your health queries to a qualified medical practioner.
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At Lucy Bee, we’re passionate about a healthy lifestyle and feeling good through the foods we eat. Our website promotes the nourishing ingredients that we love plus tips for natural beauty and fitness.