Sunlight, Vitamin D and Health By Libby Showalter, M.S., L.D., R.D.
Libby Showalter, M.S., R.D., L.D., is a Registered Dietitian who earned a master's degree in nutrition from Case Western Reserve University.She is a Registered Dietitian for the YMCA of Greater Cleveland (THRIVE! Partner), as well as for THRIVE!.
People who live in northern climates are more at risk to be deficient in vitamin D, especially in winter months. Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps maintain strong bones and teeth. It helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus. Muscles need it to move and it also keeps the immune system healthy. Because vitamin D deficiency is linked with these and possibly other diseases, it is vital to maintain adequate levels of this vitamin.
Sources of foods with vitamin D: Very few foods naturally contain this vitamin, but these do:
Fatty fish such as tuna and salmon
Egg yolks and beef liver
Most dietary vitamin D comes from fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals
Our body can make vitamin D when exposed to the sun:
People who live in northern latitudes might not make enough in fall and winter
Those with darker skin do not produce as much from the sun
Wearing sunscreen reduces production
Keeping body covered with clothing also reduces production
People who are at risk for vitamin D deficiency:
Those with liver disease or conditions that cause fat malabsorption (like Crohn’s disease)
Persons taking anti-seizure or corticosteroid medications
How much vitamin D do we need: The amount of vitamin D that we need each day is typically based on age. The recommended amounts are listed in International Units (IU).
Life StageRecommended Amount Birth to 12 months 400 IU/day Children and teens 600 IU/day Adults, up to age 70 600 IU/day Adults, 71+ 800 IU/day
A simple blood test can be used to determine if you have adequate vitamin D levels. Your doctor might suggest that you take a vitamin D supplement.
THRIVE! Southern Lorain County is one of 11 Community Collaboratives powered by United Way of Greater Lorain County that are working to improve the health, education, and financial stability of all residents in our communities.