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Vitamin D, the so called sunshine drug, has a powerful effect on human health. It has been shown to cut the incidence of breast and bowel cancer, it strengthens the bones, protects against heart diseasr and there is new evidence that it can significantly improve the relapse rate in patients suffering from multiple scleroses. But since this essential nutrient is made from the action of sunlight on the skin, the residents of gloomier northern climes become deficient in the winter. Taking vitamin D supplements can help, but the most effective remedy is to spend more time in the sun without wearing sunscreen. Research has shown that the skin produces 10,000 international units of vitamin D in response to 20 to 30 minutes of sumer time sun exposure. By contrast the daily dose of vitamin D supplements from synthetic sources is 400 IU, and any more of this synthetic orally digested vitamin D risks kidney damage. As usual with most scientific advice there looms a conflict of interest…..with rates of skin cancer reaching record levels experts are cautious of advising people to go out into the midday sun with no sunscreen, but even they acknowledge that limited exposure is beneficial.
“Obviously vitamin D is important for health< but the amount you need for sun is less than that that will tan or burn” says Ed Young of Cancer Research UK. “We know that casual exposure is enough for vitamin d production and recommend 10 to 15 minutes a day”
As with nearly all health warnings, nutritional advice and exercise prescription the laws of common sense apply here. As personal trainers we try to preach and adhere to a regime of moderation in all things, and this case is no exception to the rule. So just as it’s probably not the best sense to avoid all sunlight and be constantly plastered in factor 100, similarly it’s not a great idea to sit out with the frying oil on at midday in Oman. So be sensible, moderate, and above all have fun!