Magic Vitamin D

Vitamin D, which isn’t actually a vitamin at all, is considered to be one of the ‘magic vitamins’ when it comes to human health, though a full understanding of its role in healthfulness is only now being closely investigated after years of it being considered something that was more or less ‘automatically’ produced by most people. Actually, Vit D is a hormone produced primarily through sunlight conversion in the skin, where a pro-hormone is made into the pre-hormone, D3, which then, over the course of two to three days, further converts into Vit D3. This is then carried in the bloodstream to the liver and kidneys to become the biologically active hormone 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3, also sometimes referred to as ‘solitrol’, which means ‘hormone of sunlight’. Only about 15 per cent of the available precursor in the skin actually becomes Vit D, as prolonged exposure to sunlight converts pre-Vitamin D3 into two biologically inert (as far as is known) substances, thereby preventing Vit D ‘overdose’ through excess sun exposure. So prolonged exposure to sunlight is no better for you than short duration exposures (especially in powerful, direct sunlight) when it comes to Vit D; and extended exposure comes with a high risk of sunburn since the wavelengths that convert sunlight into Vit D (290-320nm) overlap with those that cause sunburn (290-400nm). So best practice is to use as much sunscreen as possible, leaving only small areas uncovered and then only for a short period, depending on skin type. The counterpoint is that, if your body is entirely covered with clothes and/or high SPF sunscreen, you’ll receive very little Vit D-creating sunlight radiation. Balance, local conditions and your particular sensitivity are critical factors in deciding what is the right amount of direct sunlight for you.

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