Vitamin D and the sun, an indissoluble partnership that is very profitable for our health
– Vitamin D and the sun form an indissoluble and highly profitable partnership for our health, since it is an essential substance for the absorption of calcium, but it is impossible to metabolize without exposing our skin to sunlight. However, according to various studies, more than 50% of the Spanish population has a deficiency of this vitamin, reaching 80% in the elderly and 62% in pregnant women.
In addition to favoring our good bone health, there are specialists who consider that vitamin D deficiency is related to autoimmune, allergic, infectious, cardiovascular, neurological, bone, inflammatory, digestive, oncological and even depressive disorders. In this sense, Sílvia Torrents, nutritionist at the HM Nou Delfos Hospital in Barcelona, assures that “it performs endocrine and systemic functions at an extra-osseous level, for which reason it is considered more of a hormone than a vitamin. Currently, there are many researchers who study the link of this vitamin-hormone with 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 (having darker skin color) 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”, Torrents points out. People over 65 are one of the main risk groups.
Key substance for women. Women, at all stages of life, constitute another risk group, since vitamin D “acts as a hormone and any hormone is important in women’s health,” says Sílvia Torrents. Thus, in childbearing age, its deficiency makes it difficult for the embryo to implant and favors polycystic ovary syndrome, a problem that affects between 5% and 10% 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.
It is 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.
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 noon, while in summer, the HM Nou Delfos nutritionist considers that in order to metabolize vitamin D “it is enough to spend only between 15 and 30 minutes in the sun, always during hours when solar radiation is not very high. To alleviate the problems of lack of Vitamin D, in addition to exposure to sunlight and the intake of foods rich in this substance, if the specialist considers it appropriate, the intake of a supplement can also be effective.