Is there such a thing as not enough sun?
By Shae Marshall-Rae
I found this one really hard to comprehend, if you have ever noticed the common trend in my articles… avid sunscreen protection is my mantra. And I stick by this.
How much sun do we actually need for sufficient supply of vitamin D?
Just the other day, I came to a realisation. I realised that my entire office for my day job exists in my living room. So does pretty much all of my life, which has led me to a lifestyle that …pretty much sees no sun whatsoever. After getting on my high-horse about the effects of getting too much Vitamin D (in this article), I was forced to consider what it could mean if we weren’t to get enough sun (and yes, this was very very hard for me to consider)
So, now that we know how much is too much…
How little is too little?
At this time of year, when the UV rating in Australia is about 3 in most areas, which is moderate — recommending a hat, sunscreen and for us to ‘seek shady areas’ (check, done!) — it is recommended for 2-3 hours of sun exposure over the entire week. So that’s a maximum of 25 minutes in direct sunlight per day. Darker skins need about 2-3 times more exposure, as the concentration of darker melanin cells in their skins protect them from UV exposure much more effectively.
Also, for you sunscreen buffs like me, there are studies that suggest that sunscreen use does not affect your ability to absorb Vitamin D (here is an article showing the study). So, there’s no reason to be reckless, especially in the Australian sun — it can still adversely affect your skin, even in wintertime!
So, what happens when you don’t get enough Vitamin D?
Sunshine is helpful for releasing endorphins, and we all know endorphins make us happy. That’s always a bonus. (But in my opinion, I would regard ‘happy’ sun as morning and afternoon sun, rather than the bite-y midday sun —sunburn certainly is not endorphin-releasing type joy). It can also lead to bone and muscle pain in the short term, with Ricketts still a very real possibility in children lacking Vitamin D, and weak fragile bones (Ostopenia) in adults.
Long-term, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of serious health conditions like; Multiple Sclerosis (MS), diabetes, various cancers, heart disease, mental health conditions (like schizophrenia) and other auto-immune diseases.
…I think I might lose the vampire-like sun fear, and get out more. 30+ and all.