Are you getting enough vitamin D?

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Woman reading n th sunshine

Lots of us are not getting enough vitamin D because we're worried about skin cancer, according to new research.

Why are we not getting enough vitamin D and does it matter?

Research by the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) has shown that lots of people believe it's not safe to spend any time in the sun without sunscreen.

However, getting sun exposure to bare skin is essential for producing vitamin D, which can prevent osteoporosis, bowel cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and other diseases.

Vitamin D also keeps our bones healthy as it helps us to absorb calcium.

How do we get the right amounts of vitamin D without damaging our skin?

Our bodies actually produce vitamin D very quickly when bare skin is exposed to the sun - so you'll have produced the right amount long before you start to burn.

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) recommends that you spend 10 minutes, twice a day, with your face and arms exposed to the skin without sunscreen. This should produce the necessary
amount of vitamin D to keep you healthy.
Studies have shown that sunscreen of SPF 8 or more can block vitamin D production by 95%.

However, they say that if it's a very hot day and you have pale skin you might burn in 10 minutes, so you should put sunscreen on. The same applies when you're on holiday. Protecting yourself from skin cancer should always be a priority.

Vitamin D is also in some foods such as eggs, oily fish, fish liver oils and some fortified cereals.

Who's likely to be lacking in vitamin D?

People with brown or black skin, those who don't go outside much and people who cover up with clothes could all have a vitamin D deficiency. Pregnant women or breast-fed babies with mums who are low on vitamin D could also be lacking.

How can I increase my levels of vitamin D?

The NOS suggests that you go for a quick walk or get out into your garden if you think you're not going outside enough - sitting next to a window won't get you the vitamins you need. You can still get vitamin D on a cloudy day, although it may take a bit longer.

If you're worried you're not getting enough sun then you should talk to your doctor about getting a vitamin D supplement.

What have the experts said?

Dr Susan Lanham-New, Nutritional Advisor to the NOS, said: 'The human body is very efficient at producing vitamin D so you should have produced enough long before you start to burn.

'Lying on the beach for 2 weeks will not top up levels for the rest of the year and may risk skin cancer. However, people should try to enjoy some summer sunshine over the next few months, knowing that safe sun actually does us all some good.'

Last week's news: Cancer could be prevented by losing weight

Continued below...

Where to next?

- What are vitamins and minerals?
- Sun care tips for protecting children
- Skin cancer awareness: know your moles

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