According to several studies, more than 50 percent of the Spanish population has vitamin D deficiency, reaching 80 percent in the elderly and 62 percent in pregnant women. Silvia Torrentsnutritionist at the HM Nou Delfos Hospital in Barcelona, assures that “there are many researchers who study the link between this vitamin-hormone and different disorders, but just knowing that it affects bone health, it is already dangerous to have insufficient levels because we are being led to a progressive loss of bone density with the consequence of suffering from osteoporosis and fractures, especially in people over 65 years of age”.
However, it is estimated that half of Spaniards do not have an optimal level of this vitamin, which is explained by “low exposure to sunlight, use of ultraviolet radiation filter creams and low intake of foods rich in vitamin D. skin hyperpigmentation it is also one of the reasons why Spain, despite being a country with many hours of sunlight, has a high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency”, says Torrents.
The vitamin D deficiency in women of childbearing age also makes it difficult for the embryo to implant and favors polycystic ovary syndrome, a problem that affects between 5-10 percent of women; during pregnancy, its insufficiency is associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes, premature delivery and low birth weight of the baby and, finally, in menopause, the correct levels prevent cardiovascular problems, breast cancer, obesity and osteoporosis.
not easy to find foods rich in vitamin D, so assuming an optimal level through diet is difficult. Cod liver oil, oily fish (sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon, etc.), shellfish, eggs, dairy products, mushrooms, avocado or wheat germ are among the few foods that can help to maintain an optimal level of vitamin D, but what is definitive is the exposure of our skin to the sun’s rays.
Sun throughout the year, but with caution
Although summer is a time of year when sun exposure is more frequent, it is a habit that must be put into practice throughout the year. In winter and spring it is advisable to go out between 10 and 12 hours, while, in summer, the HM Nou Delfos nutritionist considers that to metabolize vitamin D “it is enough to spend only between 15 and 30 minutes in the sun, always during the hours when solar radiation is not very high, since which, if not, would pose a risk when it comes to developing severe skin problems. If we plan a greater extension of sun exposure, we must take into account the application of a sunscreen to prevent skin cancer”.
In this sense, the gynecologist at Hospital HM Nou Delfos, Martha Ortega, states that to metabolize vitamin D, the need for sun exposure varies depending on age. Thus, “young women have enough to expose their face and arms to the sun’s rays for 5-15 minutes a day; while women over 70 years of age should stay longer, since skin synthesis is 75 percent lower”.
To alleviate the problems of lack of vitamin D, the intake of some supplement. Ortega is in favor of “supplementing whenever sun exposure is insufficient and in patients with cancer, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and other chronic diseases.” In addition, you can also choose a dietary supplement, although “always following the guidelines indicated by professionals, since, otherwise, we could suffer from intoxication. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, so if more than the right amount is ingested, it is not excreted and remains accumulated in fatty tissue, the storage of which is unfavorable for health”, explains Torrents.