The Elusive Vitamin D

Updated: May 6, 2020

Busting myths around the most confused and misunderstood of all vitamins - vitamin D. Here's all that you need to know.


The most common vitamin deficiency cropping up in people's medical test results these days, seems to be that of Vitamin D. Just the other day I had a friend mention that he was shocked he was deficient in Vitamin D, considering he spends a substantial amount of time in the sun. Honestly, it isn't that simple!


What is it?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin also known as the "sunshine vitamin" because it is produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Your body produces vitamin D naturally when it’s directly exposed to sunlight. There are certain foods as well that have significant amount of the vitamin to ensure adequate levels of it in your blood.


Why is it required?

We need vitamin D to help absorb #calcium and #phosphorus from our #diet. What most of us know is that it is essential to get a sufficient amount of this vitamin for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, what we don't know is that it -

  1. Regulates moods and wards of #depression

  2. Boosts weight loss and prevents heart disease

  3. Reduces your likelihood of catching the flu

Busting a few myths will help you produce enough Vitamin D without sun-burning your skin!


1. No, your skin cannot synthesise Vitamin D from the sunlight you get in your car or through glass windows - sunlight consists of both ultraviolet A, or UVA, which penetrates deep within the skin layers and can cause premature ageing; and ultraviolet B, or UVB, which causes the redness of sunburn. It’s the UVB rays that trigger the synthesis of vitamin D. And you can’t get adequate UVB exposure sitting indoors or in a car. Virtually all commercial and automobile glass blocks UVB rays. As a result, you will not be able to increase your vitamin D levels by sitting in front of a sunny window, though much of the UVA radiation will penetrate the glass and may be harmful.


2. Your skin colour totally affects how much Vitamin D is made - People with darker skin need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of Vitamin D as someone with lighter skin. For my skin tone, I need about 3 hours a week of exposure.


3. Yes, your skin needs to be directly exposed to sunlight & no, wearing sunscreen is not helping if you are trying to improve Vitamin D levels in your body - Your body cannot make Vitamin D if it is not getting UVB rays directly hitting your skin. But it is very essential to find your balance and not let your skin burn by too much exposure. Apply that sunscreen as soon as you feel a burning sensation in your skin.


4. Please don't put your babies in direct strong sunlight - This will do a lot of harm to them so please keep them covered, with hats and light cotton clothes and in the shade. Babies and children under the age of 5 always need supplements of Vitamin D; their formulas, fortified milk, bournvitas etc. already include the required amounts of Vitamin D, so don't worry much.


5. Vitamin D deficiency is more common for people living in cities like Delhi & Bangalore because..long grey winters, cloud cover, air pollution & high-rise buildings - Sunlight in foggy grey winters doesn't contain sufficient UVB required to produce Vitamin D by the skin. A cloud cover can block the UVB rays. Also, carbon particles in the air from the burning of fossil fuels, wood, and other materials scatter and absorb UVB rays, diminishing vitamin D production in the skin.


The best dietary source for vitamin D is old-fashioned cod liver oil.


Despite all of the above, every individuals' needs are different and it is essential we all learn to respect our bio-individuality and not abuse it with supplements unless prescribed. A nutritious diet is the most effective and a long-term solution.


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