As the warm summer months roll in, many people tend to bask in the sun's glorious rays, soaking up the vitamin D their bodies need. While natural sunlight is an excellent source of this essential nutrient, there are compelling reasons why taking a vitamin D supplement remains crucial during the summer season. In this blog post, we'll delve into the benefits of maintaining optimal vitamin D levels and explore why supplementation is still necessary for many individuals during the summer months.
2. Limited Sun Exposure
Contrary to popular belief, obtaining adequate vitamin D solely from sunlight can be challenging. Factors like the use of sunscreen, limited time outdoors, or staying in shaded areas can significantly reduce the skin's ability to produce vitamin D (1). Additionally, individuals living in areas with limited sunlight or those who spend most of their time indoors may struggle to get enough sunlight exposure. In such cases, vitamin D supplementation becomes essential to bridge the gap.
3. Sunscreen and Protective Measures
While it's crucial to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the use of sunscreen can inhibit vitamin D synthesis. Sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) blocks the UV rays necessary for vitamin D production (3). To strike a balance, it's recommended to spend a few minutes in the sun without sunscreen before applying it or to expose areas of the body that are less sensitive to sunburn, such as the arms or legs.
4. Geographical Location and Climate
The amount of sunlight varies depending on geographical location and climate. Those residing in higher latitudes, where the sun's angle is less direct, may struggle to produce sufficient vitamin D even during summer (2). Similarly, individuals living in regions with long winters or frequent cloud cover face challenges in maintaining optimal vitamin D levels (4). Supplementing with vitamin D ensures a consistent intake, regardless of environmental factors.
5. Skin Pigmentation
Melanin, the pigment responsible for skin colour, acts as a natural sunscreen. Higher levels of melanin provide protection against harmful UV rays but also reduce vitamin D synthesis. People with darker skin tones may require more sunlight exposure to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. Consequently, supplementation is particularly important for individuals with darker skin to maintain optimal levels throughout the year (5).
6. Health Support Beyond Bone Health
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in supporting overall health, beyond its well-known role in bone health. It aids in calcium absorption, strengthens the immune system, supports cardiovascular health, and helps regulate mood and cognitive function (1). These benefits extend to summer months, making it important to maintain optimal vitamin D levels.
While summer brings ample opportunities for sun exposure, taking a vitamin D supplement remains essential for many individuals. Factors such as limited sun exposure, the use of sunscreen, geographical location, skin pigmentation, and the wide-ranging health benefits of vitamin D highlight the need for supplementation during the summer months. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage and ensure you maintain optimal vitamin D levels throughout the year, promoting your overall well-being.
- Holick, M.F. (2006). High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 81(3), 353-373.
- Webb, A.R., Kazantzidis, A., Kift, R.C., Farrar, M.D., Wilkinson, J., & Rhodes, L.E. (2010). Meeting vitamin D requirements in white Caucasians at UK latitudes: providing a choice. Nutrients, 2(10), 1-12.
- Rhodes, L.E., Webb, A.R., Fraser, H.I., Kift, R., Durkin, M.T., Allan, D., & O'Brien, S.J. (2010). Recommended summer sunlight exposure levels can produce sufficient (> or =20 ng ml(-1)) but not the proposed optimal (> or =32 ng ml(-1)) 25(OH)D levels at UK latitudes. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 130(5), 1411-1418.
- Cashman, K.D., Dowling, K.G., Škrabáková, Z., Gonzalez-Gross, M., Valtueña, J., De Henauw, S., ... Kiely, M. (2016). Vitamin D deficiency in Europe: pandemic? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(4), 1033-1044.
- Wacker, M., & Holick, M.F. (2013). Sunlight and vitamin D: A global perspective for health. Dermato-Endocrinology, 5(1), 51-108.
- Armas, L.A.G., Hollis, B.W., & Heaney, R.P. (2004). Vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3 in humans. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 89(11), 5387-5391.
Please remember that while this article provides information based on research findings, it's important to consult with healthcare professionals before making any changes to your supplement routine.