Sunlight vs Food: Balancing the Need For Vitamin D With Getting Too Much UV Radiation

There's a conundrum that must be solved for you and your family to achieve optimal health:

1. If you get too much sun exposure, too much UV, you run a much higher risk for developing skin cancer, cataracts, macular degeneration, and premature aging.

2. If you get too little sun exposure, too little UV, you'll be vitamin D deficient, which can lead to whole host of significant health problems.

3. Have you heard the expression, "Damned if you do and damned in you don't?" It seems to apply here, unfortunately!

So, what's the solution to this conundrum?

As the makers of sun protective clothing, this is a problem we care very deeply about and we want to offer our customers and potential customers a solid solution to this conundrum.

In this post, we will explain the problem and offer you a quick practical solution that you can immediately use to protect yourself and your family from harmful radiation yet get the vitamin D you desperately need. In future posts, we will provide you with additional important information on this subject so stay tuned by signing up for our free newsletter.

Here are some of the questions we will answer in this post:

Why has there been so much recent hubbub about vitamin D lately?

What health benefits does vitamin D provide?

Why do you need to get vitamin D from the sun?

Can't you just get vitamin D from the food you eat?

Can't I just take a vitamin D supplement instead of risking skin cancer, cataracts, and wrinkled skin?

Before the 1940s, many children developed rickets because they didn't get enough vitamin D, which is essential for the proper formation of bones. Without enough vitamin D, your body can't properly absorb calcium or phosphorous, both key components in bone structure. Starting in the 1940s, the United States government, and governments around the world, started "fortifying" (adding) vitamin D to food staples like milk and cereal. This basically "cured" the rickets problem which had gotten to be an epidemic. To this day, governments continue to add vitamin D to milk, cereal, oatmeal, orange juice, baby formula, and other foods. You've probably seen food labels that say, "fortified with..."

Although this was considered a modern medical breakthrough, it would be decades later before scientists and doctors became aware that vitamin D is absolutely critical in many other functions in the body. To complicate matters more, the artificial version of vitamin D they were fortifying foods with actually turns out to cause medical problems and it is no where near as good as natural vitamin D! In fact, artificial vitamin D can actually interfere with the functioning of natural vitamin D so you definitely want to avoid artificial vitamin D and keep your kids away from it too!

So, although fortifying staple foods with artificial vitamin D did solve the rickets epidemic, it did not solve other health problems associated with a vitamin D deficiency.

Here is a partial list of health issues scientists have shown that a vitamin D deficiency causes:

- Lower calcium absorption
- Improper bone development in children
- Osteoporosis
- Problems with bone remodeling
- Broken or fractured bones not healing properly
- Chronic inflammation throughout the entire body
- Suppression of the immune system
- Cells not developing properly
- Higher risk of all forms of cancer (this is a BIGGIE!)
- Heart disease
- Diabetes
- Depression
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Exacerbates mental health disorders like schizophrenia

Wow, when you see a list like this, you really come to realize just how important getting enough vitamin D actually is! Keep in mind too that you can get enough vitamin D to ward off rickets without getting enough to protect yourself from all the other health problems deficient levels of vitamin D can cause!

It turns out too that most people today don't get enough vitamin D! This includes children... even babies are born deficient in vitamin D because their mothers don't have enough vitamin D in their system. Moreover, most nursing mothers don't even have enough vitamin D to pass along to their babies in their milk. This is in fact why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends supplementing a nursing baby with at least 400 IU vitamin D per day.

So, why are modern people so deficient in vitamin D, compared to our ancestors? There are actually a number of reasons for this but the top one is the fact that most people stay indoors a lot today and when they go outside they usually wear a lot of clothing. Therefore, few people get enough sun during the right time of day and right time of year to produce enough vitamin D and store it in the body. Furthermore, our ancestors ate a lot of wild fish and other wild foods that contained higher levels of vitamin D than our modern diet.

So, the solution must be to get more sun on our bare skin and eat more foods that contain vitamin D, right?

We'll it's not that simple at all! Let me explain.

First, it is nearly impossible to get enough vitamin D from food alone, even if you really try hard!

Here is the daily amount of vitamin D recommended by the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH):

For Babies (0 to 12 months): 400 IU

For Adults (1 to 70 years old): 600 IU

For Adults Over 70 Years Old: 800 ICU

Many other experts who have studied vitamin D extensively, recommend a far greater average daily dose of vitamin D. For example, Dr. Michael Holick, considered by most to be the world's leading expert on vitamin D, recommends 1000 IU daily for children and 2000-3000 IU for adults. If you are obese, he recommends more because so much vitamin D will become inaccessible in your excess fat. The Endocrine Society, a national medical society with many medical doctors and Ph.D.'s as board members, recommends up to 1000 IU for babies and children and 1500 - 2000 IU for adults.

Even if we accept the lower recommendations by the NIH, let's give a few examples of what it would take to get enough natural vitamin D from the diet. There is no vitamin D in vegetarian food -- ZERO! You must get it from fish, seafood, meat, meat byproducts, and mushrooms.

The highest amount of natural vitamin D found in food is in fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, herring, and catfish. If you are willing to eat a big serving of these fatty fish every single day, you would barely get the NIH's recommended 600 IU per day. Most white flaky fish (besides catfish), like cod or halibut, does include some vitamin D but far less than you find in fatty fish. So, in order to get even the minimum amount of vitamin D from white flaky fish, you'd need to eat a big serving of it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day!

Other foods that are considered relatively high in vitamin D have far less than even white flaky fish. For example, eggs are often touted as having a lot of vitamin D. However, this is only in the yolk, so no egg white omelettes,  and most commercially produced eggs, from chickens who eat GMO corn and soy, have very little vitamin D. If you are careful to buy only pasture raised eggs, from chickens who eat green grass and bugs, you can get the amount of vitamin D up to about 40 IU per egg. So, to get your daily 600 IU dose of vitamin D from pasture raised eggs, you'd have to eat 15 eggs a day!! Does this sound doable or sustainable? Of course not! For commercial eggs, you'd have to eat about 30-45 egg a day to get the minimum amount of vitamin D!


"to get your daily 600 IU dose of vitamin D you'd have to eat 15 eggs a day!!

What about fortified foods? Well, first you need to remember that the artificial vitamin D they add to staple foods like milk and cereal has many negative effects on the body, including interfering with the normal functioning of natural vitamin D you get from the sun or fish! Second, even here, it's tough to get enough vitamin D from fortified foods to meet the minimum requirement. For example, most commercially produced milk is fortified with 100 IU per cup. This means you'd have to drink six cups of fortified milk per day every day to get enough vitamin D. That's a tall order!

So, this tells you something very important that you need to remember. The human body is designed to get the majority of its vitamin D directly from solar UV-B interacting with bare skin! The vitamin D obtained from food is meant only as a supplement. This was true for our ancestors and it's still true today.

If you want to get enough vitamin D, you do need some sunlight hitting your bare skin without sun screen!

So, we're back to the conundrum. How do we get enough UV-B from the sun to produce the natural vitamin D our bodies yearn for and need to protect us from a myriad of diseases without getting so much we end up with skin cancer, cataracts, and ugly wrinkled leathery skin?!

The answer is sun protective clothing like the sun shirts, sun hats, and sun leggings we design and sell!!!

You can expose your bare skin for a few minutes of sun around solar noon to get a nice dose of vitamin D and then put on your sun shirt and sun hat. This way, you can slip outside on your lunch break, expose your bare face and arms to the sun for a few minutes and then throw on your sun hat and sun shirt.

The same solution applies if you go for a walk on the beach with the kids. Start out without the hat and shirt but then after a few minutes have everyone put on their sun hat and sun shirt! This way, you'll get the best of both worlds. You'll get sun on your bare skin for copious amounts of natural vitamin D but then you'll protect your skin and eyes from major damage.

We'll be talking more about this in future posts but know for now that if you allow your skin to stay in the sun too long, long enough to turn pink or start to tan, the extra radiation will actually start to decompose the vitamin D you just produced! So, limit it to a few minutes and be strict with the kids about this too!

Sun protective clothing is an easy and practical solution to the conundrum of balancing your need for vitamin D with getting too much sun exposure!

Sun screen is not a great solution for this, however.

When you wear sun screen with a high SPF, you block most of the UV-B portion of the solar rays, which is exactly the portion of sunlight your skin needs to produce natural vitamin D. It's not practical, nor anywhere near as easy, to bask in the sun for a few minutes and then very quickly apply sun screen. Most people put sun screen on at home in front of a mirror, especially around the eyes, for a reason! Plus, it's so messy and greasy, you'd want to wash your hands. It's also not something you'd generally want to wear to work unless you happen to be a field ecologist or farmer!

Please note, we'll be talking more about how much sun you need to get adequate levels of natural vitamin D and other important details on this topic so please bookmark our blog and sign up for our free newsletter where we'll keep you posted. You may also want to explore our archived articles for additional information. If you have questions or comments, you can post them at the end of each post.



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