Vitamin D: Sun vs. Supplements
Is it better to get vitamin D from the sun or from supplements? If you’re a dermatologist, the answer is easy: supplements.
The American Academy of Dermatology recently issued a position statement stressing the importance of getting enough vitamin D without overexposing yourself to cancer-causing UV radiation from sunlight or tanning machines. They recommend getting vitamin D from supplements along with foods rich in vitamin D. There are not many foods naturally rich in vitamin D, but fatty fish and cod liver oil provide significant amounts. Vitamin D-fortified milk is also a good source.
There are plenty of good reasons to rely on supplements for your vitamin D. For one thing, supplements are the only sure way to get the higher amounts of vitamin D that new research shows is beneficial. Experts are recommending 1,000-2,000 IU a day, much more than most people would get through typical sun exposure. And even if you like a little bit of a tan, you probably don’t like the wrinkles and brown age spots that are the trademark of sun-damaged skin.
Supplemental vitamin D comes in two distinct forms: ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3). Research has shown that supplemental D3 is more active in the body than D2. However, D2 is the form frequently used to fortify dairy products and is found in many supplements.
Vitamin D is way too important to be ignored. Deficiency is associated with a long list of problems: osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, common cancers, lowered immunity, cardiovascular disease, depression and memory problems. And vitamin D deficiency is more common than many people, including doctors, realize. It’s estimated that more than half of children and adults in the U.S. aren’t getting enough. Don’t be one of them!
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: While exposure to sunlight is a way to get vitamin D, overexposing yourself to the sun’s UV rays can age your skin prematurely and put you at risk for skin cancer. In any case, most people can’t get all the vitamin D they need from the sun and foods alone. Don’t let a vitamin D deficiency compromise your wellbeing. Be sure you get all the vitamin D you need by taking 1,000-2,000 IU a day of supplemental vitamin D3.