Too much exposure to the sun is harmful, but so is missing out on the necessary Vitamin D
Wear a hat. Use plenty of sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Prevent skin cancer and slow the aging process.
Do a good enough job of protecting yourself from the sun and you may end up with a Vitamin D deficiency. That’s because we naturally produce the nutrient when sunlight hits the skin.
Low levels of vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin," may be the unintended consequence of doing too good of a job of protecting yourself from the sun.
Vitamin D is present in very few foods but is usually added as a supplement to milk. A deficiency of the nutrient is associated with lactose intolerance and dairy allergies but was first added to milk in the 1930s to prevent rickets in children.
Most adults do not consume enough milk to get sufficient amounts of the vitamin. Other dairy products such as ice cream are generally not made with fortified milk. Fish is a good source of the substance.
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to chronic pain, fatigue and depression. Sufficient amounts of the vitamin must be present for the body to absorb calcium, which prevents osteoporosis and other skeletal and muscular disorders.
Sunscreens with the recommended SPF 15 block the radiation needed to produce the vitamin. Cloud cover, smog and location on the globe affect vitamin D production. Dallas is far enough south to allow for enough exposure to UVB radiation throughout the year.
And while too much exposure to the sun can cause melanoma and other skin cancers, vitamin D helps prevent colon, prostate and breast cancers.
Recent studies indicate most people need 1,000 to 2,000 units of vitamin D daily, five times the current government guidelines.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 14, 2010.