Sunny days are ahead which means more Vitamin D! But how much do you really need?
Summertime sun is always a welcome change from the frigid winters. Running outside, spending time with friends and family on a patio, biking instead of hopping in a car – summer usually lets us take in the fresh air on a daily basis. With sun comes a heavy dose of Vitamin D, sometimes referred to as the Sunshine Vitamin.
You might recognize D vitamins as a skin-enriching vitamin since it can most easily be absorbed through the sunshine. Vitamin D can encourage bone strength, healthy blood, strengthen our immune system, elevate mood and overall brain health (1).
Steve Hausman, former research scientist at the National Institutes of Health said, “Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the intestine and maintains adequate calcium and phosphate concentrations in the blood. This enables bone to be mineralized – that is, to absorb calcium.”
What are the overall benefits of Vitamin D?
According to Hausman, Vitamin D is a nutrient that can be obtained from sun exposure, food, and supplements. “The immune system needs D vitamins to fight off invading bacteria and viruses,” said Hausman. “Together with calcium, Vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis.”
Research shows that D vitamins can directly support healthy blood, bone strength, healthy heart, brain function, and overall immune health.
“Vitamin D is required for good health and in order to maintain strong bones. The way it does this is by assisting the body absorb calcium (one of bone’s main building blocks) from food and supplements,” said Hausman. “Individuals who get too little vitamin D may develop soft, thin, and brittle bones. This conditions is known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.”
Vitamin D is important other ways as well. In addition to supporting bone health, Vitamin D has been shown to support healthy inflammatory responses (1). Studies have shown that this vitamin can play an integral role in promoting healthy cells that can aid in encouraging overall immune health.
“Medical research indicates that vitamin D might play some role in the prevention and treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), glucose intolerance, multiple sclerosis, and other medical conditions,” said Hausman. “Vitamin D has other roles in the body, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation.”
How does Vitamin D help my skin?
Spending time outdoors is a great way to absorb your daily dose of the Sunshine Vitamin. Hausman says that in general, the body makes Vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to the sun and that most people meet at least some of their vitamin needs this way.
“We know that Vitamin D is produced in the skin. There are purported to be some benefits of using creams and taking supplements but only a few of these have been validated by clinical trials,” said Hausman. “It has been shown that cream or supplements may be effective for treatment of psoriasis. It has been said that the antioxidant effects of Vitamin D prevent skin damage and premature aging of skin. This needs to be countered by the fact that too much sun exposure can result in skin cancer.”
According to Hausman, there have also been a few clinical studies that suggest that Vitamin D treatment might be useful in combating the effects of chemotherapy-induced hair loss and in healing surgical wounds but it is important to state that neither of these hypotheses have been proven.
How much Vitamin D do I need each day?
The USDA recommends the following International Units (1U) of Vitamin D per day (2):
- Birth to 12 months – 400 IU
- Children 1–13 years – 600 IU
- Teens 14–18 years – 600 IU
- Adults 19–70 years – 600 IU
- Adults 71 years and older – 800 IU
It is important to keep in mind that since Vitamin D is most easily absorbed through ultraviolet radiation, too much exposure to sun can be damaging to skin.
“Most people meet at least some of their D vitamin needs through exposure of ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight,” said Hausman. “However, excess sunlight exposure should not be recommended because of the risk of skin cancer. Lifetime cumulative UV damage to skin is also largely responsible for some age-associated dryness and other cosmetic changes.”
(1) Holick, Michael F. “Vitamin D: A D-lightful hormone for bone health and prevention of deadly diseases.” Bone43 (2008): n. pag. Web.
(2) Haines, Stuart T., and Sharon K. Park. “Vitamin D Supplementation: Whats Known, What to Do, and Whats Needed.” Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy32.4 (2012): 354-82. Web.