Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

Sunshine and Vitamin D

                                        September 2010  

Sunshine and Vitamin D

Sunshine and Vitamin DWe have all been warned about the dangers especially of cancer from over exposure to direct sunlight. Now, however, doctors are showing concern that we are all shying away from sunshine too much, causing a definite lack of the vital vitamin D. Recent figures indicate that more than 60 per cent of the population have sub-optimal levels of the vitamin, with problems being worse in Scotland, the North of England and among ethnic minorities.

Vitamin D is essential for our well being and is produced naturally when our skin is exposed to sunlight. The vitamin is then carried in our bloodstream to the liver, where it is converted into the prohomone calcidiol. From there, it is converted into various forms which are important in a number of vital functions.

Vitamin D plays a key role in strengthening bones and helping prevent fractures in the elderly, and there is emerging evidence of its role in helping to prevent a range of other conditions including asthma, diabetes and mulitiple sclerosis. It helps to defend the body against microbial invaders and has a role in many other activities within the body.

Vitamin D can be found in a small number of foods, including oily fish, liver and egg yolks, and the Food Standards Agency says the most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from their diet and by getting a little sun.

However, researchers at University College London say people need at least 15 minutes of sunshine a day and in normal weather should postpone putting on any sun cream until after they are out. Even in our weak winter sun, our bodies still react to the sunlight, so getting out and about in the winter is even more important and will help to boost our Vitamin D levels.

There are many who also say that people should also consider taking a Vitamin D supplement between October to April to compensate for the lack of sunshine in British winter.

Barbara Boucher, an emeritus researcher at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said *that taking 10 micrograms (400 international units) of vitamin D each day could “do no harm” and would help raise blood levels of vitamin D.

But she criticised health supplement manufacturers for not providing affordable vitamin D-only pills. Most people can only buy multi-vitamin supplements, which may lead to them taking in too much vitamin A.

Dr Boucher added that concerns over skin cancer are also having an effect, because people fear spending too much time in the sun.

“You’ve not to be afraid of time in the sun,” she added. “Some people think five minutes in the sun will put ten or twenty years on their appearance and will give you ten melanomas. It isn’t quite like that.

“Melanoma is a deadly disease, but it is all about being sensible. Don’t be afraid to have a moderate amount of sunshine so long as you don’t get burnt.”

At the end of the day, there is still some speculation about how much sunshine you need to ensure adequate Vitamin D levels; but the warnings are clear. Make sure you are well protected from too much sun and don’t risk sunburn, but nevertheless also do try to get adequate and regular exposure to sunlight to ensure you have enough Vitamin D.

*Quote as reported in the UK The Times newspaper, March 27th 2010


Want to comment on this article or ask other laterlife visitors a question?

Then click on the link below to visit the comment section of the Later Lifestyle Network, click on the 'Discussion Tab' (you can't see this until you are logged in) and Create a new topic or add your views to an existing one

Don't forget you need to login before you can make a comment.



Advertise on