The right amount of sun to get every day

The sun is the primary source of vitamin D, which is a vital vitamin in the body. Vitamin D has a well-defined role in building strong bones and maintaining good calcium levels in the body. Deficiency of vitamin D brings health problems, including weaker muscles and increased risks of osteoporosis.

While dermatologists and other health experts advocate application of sunscreen whenever you are heading out in the sun to prevent skin cancer, some researchers actually suggest that slapping sunscreen on may contribute to far more cancer deaths than it prevents.

Sunscreen blocks production of the vital vitamin, which the researchers say can prevent 30 skin cancer deaths for each one caused. The scientists recommend exposure to "safe sun" (sunlight void of sunscreen) without overdoing it to reap the health benefits of sunlight.

So, what is the right amount of “safe sun” to get every day?

How much is too much?

Many scientists agree 15 minutes or so of “safe sun” a few times a week is not only beneficial, but also achievable. There is, however, a lack of consensus among the scientists on how much vitamin D is needed in the body as well as the best way to get it. The reason for the lack of consensus is because the amount of vitamin D needed depends on many factors among them the time of day and season, location one lives and one's skin colour.

Dr. Edward Giovannucci, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health has this to say of the matter: “Sun exposure can be a good source of vitamin D for some people: For example, in a light-skinned person, one, 30-minute, full body exposure to summer sun at noon triggers the release of about 20,000 IU of vitamin D into the circulation; in a dark-skinned person, that amount of summer sun would create about half as much vitamin D.”

He adds: “Several randomized trials found that individuals who received vitamin D supplements of 800 IU per day lowered their risk of osteoporosis. It is reasonable to postulate that more than 800 IU per day would provide even more benefit, but this is not proven."

And, he cautions: “… one must be very cautious about making recommendations to increase sun exposure solely to increase vitamin D intake. There are downsides to receiving excessive sun exposure, such as skin cancer and premature skin aging.”

You are, therefore, advised to observe moderation with sun exposure until more evidence is presented.

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