Ramp up your production with sun exposure
Toronto — The importance of natural sunlight to human life cannot be understated. It sustains everything we eat, plant or animal. It helps boost our mood. And it is vital for human health, building strong, healthy bones and helping stave off a roster of debilitating and fatal diseases.
“There really is no substitute for natural sunlight in human health,” says Dr. Reinhold Vieth, Scientific Advisor for the Vitamin D Society and professor at the University of Toronto. “Your skin is like a solar receptor, and has the amazing capability to manufacture all of the vitamin D your body needs. Everyone has the capability to generate vitamin D.”
But not enough people are getting necessary sun exposure. According to Statistics Canada, more than a third of Canadians — about 12 million people — do not meet the minimum Health Canada guidelines for vitamin D levels. This is due directly to sunlight deficiency.
The human body is a true vitamin D factory, generating vitamin D very efficiently and in a short amount of time. To manufacture your daily dose of vitamin D just take a walk in the sunshine for 5-10 minutes a day with some skin exposed and without sunscreen. In Canada, it’s only possible to generate vitamin D from the sun at midday, between the months of May to October when the UV index is 3 or higher. Apply sunscreen after your time in the sun generating vitamin D if you are planning to stay outside for a longer period. Above all, know your skin and take care not to burn.
Unlike vitamin D supplements, vitamin D produced in the skin by the sun does not pose a risk of toxicity. The body is smart enough to limit its own production. In addition, sunlight makes other beneficial photoproducts in your body that you cannot receive from a supplement.
“Vitamin D is essential to good health at all ages,” says Dr. Vieth. “Vitamin D is needed by most of the cells in the human body. Many kinds of evidence shows that a lack of vitamin D affects the risk for a wide range of medical problems, including rickets in children, osteomalacia in adults, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, diabetes, heart disease and various kinds of cancer.”
According to Perry Holman, executive director of the Vitamin D Society, the key is to educate people to enjoy and harness the power of the sun safely.
“This is not a call for people to ignore the warnings aboutover-exposure to sunlight,” says Holman. “It is, however, a call for people to exercise common sense and ensure they are not shutting themselves out from the vital health benefits of natural sunlight.”
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