Health Fusion: Vitamin D and sunny vacations – Duluth News Tribune

ROCHESTER — Recently, I was lucky enough to have a short vacation in the sun. While digging my toes into the sand on the beach (after having slathered sufficient amounts of sunscreen, of course), I began to wonder about whether the sun hitting my skin would boost vitamin D levels. That thought prompted me to then dig into the recommendations and some of the research that’s been published about vitamin D.

And, wow, is it confusing! Vitamin D levels seem to differ among groups of people, and depend on where you live, what you eat, the medical conditions you have and how old you are. For example, people who live in northern climates tend to get less sun exposure than people who live in warmed climates. And studies about how much sunshine or supplements you need are varied.

Because vitamin D is important for good health, I’ll get into the basics before I reveal whether or not a sunny vacation can make a difference.

The Mayo Clinic News Network notes that Vitamin D boosts bone health by helping you absorb calcium and phosphorous. Too little vitamin D increases an adult’s risk of osteoporosis and potentially other medical issues. And if kids don’t get enough they’re at increased risk of rickets.

Sunlight — ultraviolet rays hitting your skin — is the main source. You can get small amounts of vitamin D from foods, such as egg yolks, cheese and fatty fish. And vitamin D exists in fortified foods, such as milk, orange juice and cereal. Or you can take vitamin D supplements.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get 600 international units of vitamin D each day, with people over 70 getting 800 units.

So, if you live in a northern climate, will a few days at a southern beach up your vitamin D levels? A 2016 study from Edinburgh University published in the journal Plos One revealed that people who took regular vacations in the sun had higher vitamin D levels than those who didn’t. They also found that farmers, who tend to work outside, also had higher levels.

Plus, at a recent visit to my healthcare provider for a regular exam, I learned that you need about 30 minutes of sun exposure a day to get enough vitamin D. But because I always wear sunscreen, which reduces the amount of ultraviolet rays that hit my skin, 30 minutes might not be enough.

All of the variables surrounding how much vitamin D you get means that I don’t have a perfect answer to my question. But the info I found suggests that any sun exposure may boost your vitamin D levels, at least temporarily.

And, for sure, a few days away also may help to reduce stress and boost happiness in general.

Sun exposure ups your risk of skin cancer. So if you are in the sun, be sure to wear sunscreen and sun protective clothing. And limit your time in the sun.

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