• Fede Montagud, editor

    Vitamin D: ten minutes of sunlight is enough

    5 Dec Vitamin D: ten minutes of sunlight is enough



    NHS Choices

    Skin care always generates topics for debate. The vitamin D debate is open and can be summarized as follows: we need sunlight to synthesize essential vitamin D, but we all know that overexposure is a bad thing. What’s best for our health?


    Vitamin D is necessary for survival, as without it our body cannot absorb calcium and phosphorus from food. And without these elements bones develop osteoporosis and become brittle. Moreover, a lack of vitamin D is related to certain types of cancer, diabetes and a number of heart disorders. Only 10% of the vitamin D we use comes from our diet (oily fish, eggs, liver, meat, cheese); most is synthesized in our skin thanks to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Doctors are aware that more than half of Europeans have vitamin D deficiency. And the further north we go, the more cases, because sunshine is rarer at higher latitudes.


    Experts say that exposure to the sun for ten minutes every day will ensure correct vitamin D levels. This low level of exposure implies no risk of photoageing or skin cancer.


    But our way of life does not always allow for those necessary ten minutes a day, since outdoor activities are increasingly infrequent and most of us work in factories or offices. And latitude is also an important factor; British people, for example, have a sunshine deficit between November and March, a problem which is aggravated in the Scandinavian countries and in North America.


    Certain groups are also more likely to have vitamin D deficiency:


    - Menopausal women

    - Nursing mothers

    - Children up to 5 years old

    - People over 65 years old

    - People from dark-skinned ethnic groups.


    Doctors recommend that people who cannot guarantee exposure to the minimum ultraviolet radiation take oral supplements in the winter months. The recommended adult dose ranges between 600 IU and 4000 IU daily (this maximum should not be exceeded).


    So now you know. If you live in a coldish climate and do outdoor sports throughout the year or get around on foot or by bicycle, then forget about this article, as it is quite likely that vitamin D is not an issue for you. But if you fall into one of the risk groups and your skin receives limited sun exposure for a few months of the year, see your doctor.