Skip to main content

Vitamin D, sunlight and sun protection

- find the right balance and make sure to get enough of the essential vitamin

Vitamin D, sunlight and sun protectionIt is a known fact that too much sun gives you wrinkles and increases your risk of skin cancer. However, fearmongering and new lifestyle habits have resulted in widespread vitamin D deficiency, especially because of getting too little sun exposure and using too much suncream. This could have grave consequences. Several studies show that people who stay out of the sun have an increased risk of neurological disorders, sclerosis, and premature death from heart disease and cancer. Make sure to expose yourself to sufficient amounts of sunlight during the summer period, so your skin can synthesize enough vitamin D – but be responsible. If this is a challenge, vitamin D supplements are a good alternative.

During the summer period, plenty of warnings are issued against the sun, and experts recommend using sun protection. However, all the campaigns and warnings should ideally be accompanied by information about the importance of getting enough vitamin D from other sources (than sunlight). If not, the campaigns may do more harm than good, as vitamin D is essential for our bones, teeth, immune system, cardiovascular system, blood pressure, energy levels, and mood. Also, the nutrient helps control inflammation, it has an anti-ageing effect, and it helps prevent diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.

Approximately one billion people worldwide lack vitamin D

Because all cells in the body have vitamin D receptors, even minor deficiencies may have a harmful effect, depending on which tissues or organs are not properly supplied with the essential vitamin

Vitamin D from sunlight throughout evolution

Our African ancestors were believed to have adapted evolutionarily to producing around 500 micrograms of vitamin D daily from sun exposure. However, at our latitude, it is only during the summer period that the sun sits sufficiently high in the sky for our skin to be able to synthesize vitamin D. At noon, it takes 10-15 minutes for a person dressed in light summer clothing to produce around 30 micrograms of vitamin D. No matter how you twist and turn it, our original endogenous production of the nutrient from sun exposure is far beyond the reference intake level.

Lack of sunlight and vitamin D may cause

  • Insomnia and disturbed 24-hour rhythm
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Fatigue and mood swings
  • Neurological diseases such as autism, depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Impaired immunity and infections
  • Inflammation and rheumatism
  • Sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Weak muscles and muscle cramps
  • Osteoporosis and tooth decay

How to get enough vitamin D from the sun without burning

It can be somewhat difficult to get enough sunshine and vitamin D without burning. Therefore, it is best if you can gradually accustom yourself to the sun starting in early spring, thereby slowly building a protective tan. According to professor Pfotenhauer from Touro University of California, spending five to 30 minutes in the sun a few times every week and exposing your arms, legs, and face to the midday sun is usually enough. In order for us to be able to synthesize vitamin D, the sun must sit sufficiently high in the sky. It therefore makes no sense that health authorities encourage us to stay in the shade or avoid the sun during the middle of the day. Even though it is possible to get too much sun, we cannot overproduce vitamin D because the synthesis regulates itself. The longer away from Equator you live, and the darker and older your skin is, the longer you need to spend in the sun in order to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D.
In fact, the need for sunlight differs from one person to another, as some people are better than others at synthesizing the vitamin. A lot depends on the body’s enzymes that require magnesium, among other things, for activating vitamin D in the liver and kidneys. Moreover, overweight people and diabetics are more likely to be vitamin D deficient and therefore have an increased need for the nutrient compared with others. If you are afraid of getting a sunburn, try exposing yourself to 20-30 minutes of unprotected sunlight. If you to stay want to continue being in the sun after that, apply a layer of eco-labeled suncream.
For those who don’t get enough sun exposure, vitamin D supplements are a good idea. During the winter period, you can easily upgrade to a higher dosage. Vitamin D is lipid-soluble, which means that you get the best absorption from capsules with vitamin D that is dissolved in oil.

Important: Lack of sunlight is more deadly than too much of it

According to a WHO report that is mentioned in Environmental Health Perspectives, lack of UVB rays from sunlight are much more likely to cause disease than high levels of the same rays. In other words, we are not getting enough sunlight.

Avoiding the sun is every bit as dangerous as smoking

A study of 30,000 Swedish women showed that women who were used to spending time in the sun lived longer than the women who did not spend time in the sun on a regular basis. In fact, the women who avoided sun exposure and did not smoke had the same life expectancy as the women who smoked and were out in the sun. This shows that avoiding the sun is just as dangerous as smoking. The study is published in the Journal of International Medicine.

Even keen sunbathers, who have contracted normal skin cancer, live six years longer on average than the general population.

Lack of sunshine increases the risk of cancer-related deaths by 40 per cent

Danish scientists from Herlev Hospital and the University of Copenhagen have conducted a study of 96,000 people showing a 30 increased mortality rate among those with low blood levels of vitamin D. More specifically, there was a 40 higher risk of cancer-related deaths.

We need updated campaigns for cancer, sun exposure, and vitamin D

Autism and other diseases among exposed children

Many kindergartens instruct parents to apply a thick layer of sunscreen to their children before leaving them for the day. Many children are pale all summer, and that is a clear sign that they are not producing enough vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D can increase their risk of impaired immunity, asthma, and osteoporosis at an early age.
There may even be a relation between the widespread vitamin D deficiency and the growing rate of autism. This was demonstrated by several studies conducted by the scientists, Rhonda Patrick and Bruce Ames, at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI).

Measuring vitamin D levels in the blood

Vitamin D in the blood is measured as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Many experts consider blood levels of 75-100 ng/ml as optimal for disease prevention.

Mediterranean diet, sunshine, and outdoor living

It is commonly known that people who live in the Mediterranean region have a lower rate of cardiovascular disease and cancer and they live longer. A lot is attributed to their healthy Mediterranean diet. However, it could also be a result of getting more sun. It sits higher in the sky in that part of the world, and the different populations (especially those living in the country) tend to spend much more time outdoors, which gives them increased sun exposure and makes it easier for them to synthesize vitamin D.


11 Tips for Vitamin D, Sunlight, & Sunscreen | Wiseman Family Practice

Vitamin D and sun protection – finding the right balance – Cancer

American Osteopathic Association. Widespread vitamin D deficiency likely due to sunscreen use, increase of chronic diseases, review finds. ScienceDaily. May 1, 2017

Silas Mortensen. Danner kroppen D-vitamin, hvis man har solcreme på?

Lindquist PG, Epstein E, Nielsen K et al. Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. Journal of Internal Medicine. 2016

Afzal Shoaib et al. Genetically low vitamin D concentration and increased mortality: mendelian randomization analysis in three large cohorts. British Medical Journal. 2014

Khaled Sall et al. Randomized controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2016

R.P. Patrick, B.N. Ames. Vitamin D hormones regulates serotonin synthesis. The FASEB Journal 2014

Steen Ahrenkiel. D-vitamin behov og mangel i Danmark. Biokemisk forskning 2009

  • Created on .