Lifestyle Health

Thursday 23 March 2017

Striking the balance on the sun and vitamin D

Our body creates most of our vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin
Our body creates most of our vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin

We all need vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus from our diet minerals which are important for healthy bones.

Our body creates most of our vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin.

Yet at the same time we are told about the dangers of too much sun exposure and the risk of skin cancer. How do we strike a balance? How long should we stay in the sun?

Short daily periods of sun exposure without sunscreen during the summer months (April to October) are enough for most people to make enough vitamin D. Evidence suggests that the most effective time of day for vitamin D production is between 11am and 3pm.

A short period in the sun means a matter of minutes – about 10 to 15 minutes for most people – and is less than the time it takes you to start going red or to burn. The larger the area of your skin that is exposed to sunlight, the more chance there is of making enough vitamin D before you start to burn.

People with darker skin will need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D.

In Ireland, our skin isn't able to make vitamin D from winter sunlight (November to March) as the sunlight hasn't got enough UVB (ultraviolet B) radiation. During the winter, we get vitamin D from our body's stores and from food.

The longer you stay in the sun, especially for prolonged periods without sun protection, the greater the risk of skin cancer. So remember to cover up or protect your skin before the amount of time it takes you to start to turn red or burn.

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