Vitamin D: Why it's essential and how to increase levels during cold, gray months
By Katy Galimberti, AccuWeather staff writer
In the dark months of winter and still gray transition to spring, getting enough natural vitamin D through the sun's rays can be an almost impossible feat.
Vitamin D is produced under the skin by a reaction to the sun and is essential to regulating calcium and phosphate levels in the body. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone softness and other complications. Low vitamin D levels can also lead to fatigue.
"Research also links vitamin D deficiency to increased risk of prostate, colon and breast cancer, as well as depression and cardiovascular disease," Kelly Hogan, clinical nutrition and wellness manager at Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai Hospital, told AccuWeather.
In the United States, vitamin D deficiencies can affect 85 percent of the population at latitudes above 37 degrees north, or areas above New Mexico, Texas and North Carolina, Hogan said.
The colder climate leads to a lack of exposure to sunshine.
Without perpetual sunshine, obtaining enough sunlight to keep the body content is difficult. While some physicians may recommend taking supplements, there are foods that can easily be incorporated into a person's diet to mitigate a lack of sun.
"Skin production of vitamin D from sunlight is virtually non-existent in the winter," Dr. Sharon Orrange, associate professor of medicine at Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California, told AccuWeather.
"It will be even harder for you to obtain enough vitamin D if you are dark skinned, obese, consistently use sunscreen or don’t absorb vitamin D well from your gut," she said.
Therefore, intake of foods fortified with vitamin D is even more important.
Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, but oily fish like sardines and salmon are exceptions, Orrange said.
Vitamin D is also found in egg yolks, red meat, mushrooms and fortified foods like milk and orange juice. A regular intake of these foods may be enough to offset the lack of sunshine, but most experts recommend using a supplement.
While there is debate as to what kind of vitamin D supplement is best, incorporating one into a person's diet may prove beneficial.
Dr. Orrange said vitamin D3 is preferred as studies have shown the body absorbs it faster than other kinds.
Sun lamps and tanning beds are not recommended due to ultraviolet B radiation exposure.
"Because skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, it is not recommended that sun exposure be your form of vitamin D supplementation," Orrange said.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Weather News - January 18, 2019, 6:54:47 PM EST
The storm is expected to deliver snow accumulations that could be the largest snowfall of the season in some places.
Weather News - January 18, 2019, 2:18:00 PM EST
As earthquakes shake regions and cause massive, unpredictable destruction, an early warning system that provides a precious few seconds of alert can be a matter of life and death.
State of emergency declared in Pennsylvania, New Jersey as Midwest, Northeast rush to finalize snowstorm preparations
Weather News - January 18, 2019, 5:50:06 PM EST
A major snowstorm is moving through the Midwest into the Northeast through this weekend, dumping mass amounts of snow and creating treacherous travel. Local officials warn communities to prepare ahead of the dangerous winter storm.
Blizzard to dish out up to 40 inches of snow in northeastern US as dangerous ice storm takes aim farther south
Weather News - January 18, 2019, 4:30:57 PM EST
A storm with feet of snow, blizzard conditions, a significant build-up of ice, tree-breaking winds and plunging temperatures will close roads, cause flight cancellations and disrupt daily activities over a large part of the northeastern United States this weekend.
Outdoor ice skating rinks aren’t just limited to colder climates that are all too familiar with blizzards and below-freezing conditions.
Weather News - January 18, 2019, 10:36:27 AM EST
A turn to more comfortable weather this weekend will not hold through the second week of the Australian Open in Melbourne, with more hot days ahead.
Weather News - January 18, 2019, 10:05:24 AM EST
Residents across Europe will be treated to a lunar eclipse right before the moon sets late Sunday night, where the weather cooperates.
Weather News - January 18, 2019, 9:49:02 AM EST
Storms pounded parts of the U.S. this week from California to the East Coast while snow blanketed parts of the U.K. and players at the Australian Open battled extreme heat.