How The Skin Produces Vitamin D From Sunlight

In essence, exposure to sunlight daily is the natural way to produce more vitamin D in your body. This is important to understand because vitamin D is an important component in preventing many medical maladies, including cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, diabetes and neuro-muscular conditions. In fact, it is estimated that those with the lowest estimated Vitamin D levels in their body are twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who don’t.

The body naturally makes vitamin D by absorbing sunlight through the skin. Human skin has a substance in it, pro-vitamin D3 that is activated by sunlight when it ultraviolet-B (also known as UVB) passes through the skin. From your skin, your body distributes the vitamin D to the liver. There the vitamin picks up extra molecules of hydrogen and oxygen and forms 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25(OH)D. If you are tested for a vitamin D deficiency, this is the chemical your doctor will look for to determine if you need more or not.

The 25(OH)D continues its journey through the body, leaving the liver to travel to the kidney. Upon reaching the kidney, it picks up another pair of hydrogen and oxygen molecules to form a new chemical, 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D, known to scientists as calcitriol, but known to us ordinary folk as vitamin D.

Vitamin D has turned out to be an essential and important discovery in human health and longevity. In the 1920s, vitamin D was discovered to be a cure for rickets, a very prevalent and painful bone disease that affected children. Vitamin D was given to all children, and the number of cases dropped dramatically over that 10-year period until rickets was all but eliminated.

calcium regulation in the human bodyThe production of vitamin D is essential for the regulation and production of phosphorus and calcium. Without those minerals, bones and teeth are more prone to breakage. Vitamin D is essential for muscle and bone development as well as the prevention of osteoporosis.

While sunlight is a good thing, you don’t need a lot of sun to produce an adequate amount of vitamin D. Research suggests that a mere 10 minutes of sun a day is enough to get an adequate amount of vitamin D for your body. It is estimated that 10 minutes of exposure to the sun can generate up to 10,000 IUs of vitamin D.

Government guidelines suggest that individuals get at least 200 IUs a day for people up to age 40, 400 IUs a day for individuals aged 40 to 70, and 600 IUs a day for people over the age of 60. Many experts call these government-prescribed numbers too low to adequately maintain healthy levels of vitamin D in the body. They suggest that 2,000 IUs a day is needed for optimum health.

There are things you should know about the natural production of vitamin D by sun exposure. In certain parts of the country in the winter months, it is nearly impossible to produce enough vitamin D via sunlight because of the lowness of the sun. If you live north of Atlanta you are in a sun-deficient part of the country during the winter months.

As a darker male, I was told by my doctor that I had a vitamin D deficiency. Being a person that gets his fair amount of exercise and sun, as well as taking a plethora of vitamins and natural supplements, I was surprised at his diagnosis. I assumed that I absorbed vitamin D more rapidly because of my darker skin.

In reality, the opposite is true. Vitamin D deficiencies are more prevalent among darker skinned individuals than others. It has been shown that the darker skin pigments actually reduce the UV penetration needed to produce the vital amounts of vitamin D a body needs.

On the other side of the coin, many individuals are afraid of getting too much sun, believing that it will lead to certain skin cancers and other health problems. But some health experts are concerned that the constant warnings about skin cancer has had a negative effect on people’s need to get more sun. In reality, more people lose their lives to disease than melanomas from staying out in the sun too long.

Though vitamin D production naturally occurs in our bodies, we have to make sure that we give ourselves the chance to obtain it. By remembering that we need sun every day, we can maintain and restore the balances of vitamin D we need on a daily basis to maintain good health for a long time to come.

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