Winter is dark. You go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. On December 21, the shortest day of the year, people in Miami can expect about 10 ½ hours daytime while people in Seattle will only have about 8 ½ hours.
Short days mean more than just coping with dark commutes. Without enough sunlight, your body can’t produce Vitamin D. Your body needs sunlight to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for absorption of calcium and regulating the immune system. It keeps your brain healthy, helps you maintain your weight and helps reduce your risk of cancer and heart attacks.
Low levels of Vitamin D are linked with many health risks. Vitamin D deficiency can cause Rickets, a condition of soft, weak bones, but it also plays a role in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Studies have even linked it with an increased likelihood of catching a cold. Scientists disagree about the extent of the problem. Different studies estimate from 10 – 75% of US teens and adults to have a Vitamin D deficiency. But everyone agrees that Vitamin D levels are dropping. Certain groups have a higher incidence of Vitamin D deficiency. Hispanics have the lowest levels of Vitamin D. People with obesity, poor health, hypertension, low HDL cholesterol also show deficiencies. But everyone should be concerned. Because more and more people use sunscreens, stay indoors, or wear long sleeves, scientists and doctors worry that Vitamin D deficiency will continue to grow.
How to Increase your Vitamin D
Sunlight is the best way to increase your Vitamin D however it’s a tricky balance. Using just a SPF 15 sunscreen cuts the skin’s Vitamin D production by 99 percent. But of course, soaking in the sun without sunscreen may increase your risk of skin cancer. There are several dietary sources for Vitamin D. Fatty fishes like salmon, tuna, and mackerel contain healthy amounts. Some fortified foods like milk, orange juice or cereal contain high Vitamin D levels. Cod liver oil is also high.