Vitamin D is an important vitamin to maintain a strong skeletal system. It is produced naturally in the skin when it is exposed to UV light or can be consumed in some foods. For most people, there is enough incidental sun exposure throughout their day to produce healthy levels of vitamin D without seeking out extra sun exposure. Generally, in the summer months when the UV index greater than 3 a few minutes out doors is sufficient to produce a healthy dose of vitamin D within your skin. In winter months, when the UV index is lower and more skin is covered up with long pants and jackets it may take about 30 minutes of outdoor incidental sun exposure to achieve healthy levels of vitamin D – this can be achieved through a brisk walk, or sitting outside to enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon.
Studies have shown that use of sunscreen has minimal impact on vitamin D levels over time, and the need for vitamin D production should not prevent the use of sunscreen when UV levels are 3 or greater. However, some individuals are more predisposed to vitamin D deficiency than others. This group includes people with dark skin, people who cover their skin for religious or cultural purposes, frail/elderly individuals who spend most of their time indoors, obese individuals and people on certain medications. Some individuals in these groups will require vitamin D supplementation to acquire normal levels of vitamin D as they are not producing enough naturally. If you have concerns about vitamin D deficiency, please arrange an appointment with your general practitioner to discuss further.