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mirifique's avatar

What is the best way for people living in non-sunny, northern climates to metabolize vitamin D in the wintertime?

Asked by mirifique (1537points) June 14th, 2010

I’ve been reading much on the virtues of vitamin D as they apply to depression, arthritis, osteopenia, energy, mood, diabetes and even cancer; one prominent researcher believes that 20–30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure 3 times per week is what’s necessary to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. However, if you don’t live in a sunny location, what is the best way to achieve this? I know there is a vitamin D lamp that emits UV rays (www.vitaminduv.com) and also various “blue light” therapy devices (which “activate” retinal photoreceptors), but beyond this, is moving to a tropical or sunnier latitude the only solution?

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22 Answers

prescottman2008's avatar

I’ve heard of “light cafe’s” but I’ve never lived longer than about 4 months in an extreme northerly latitude so I’ve never actually been to one. It would seem to me that enough ultra-violet energy filters through to activate vitamin D in all but the most extreme circumstances otherwise people in northern latitudes would’ve died out long ago due to problems associated with lack of sun shine.

jaytkay's avatar

That’s why there is Vitamin D added to milk and orange juice.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Probably vitamin D tablets. (There are prescription strength ones that go as high as 50,000 units. Taken weekly, these should do the trick.)

Lightlyseared's avatar

You could just eat oily fish and some eggs.

JLeslie's avatar

I take perscription D. Have you had a blood test to see if your D is even low? My husband and I live in the same place and he has some D in his multivitamin, but it is a very low amount, but the big difference is he puts himself in the sun a lot more than I do, I use suntan lotion with SPF for years. I guess he builds up enough D in the summer to get him through the winter. Pretty much I think it is impossible to get enough through food alone.

prescottman2008's avatar

The sun doesn’t “spray out vitamin D”. The sun is necessary for the body to properly utilize vitamin D along with calcium in the formation of bones.

Nullo's avatar

In places like Siberia, it’s common for someone to come around with a UV lamp now and then.

JLeslie's avatar

I take 50,000 IU’s once a week as @Dr_Dredd wrote, just to add to what I posted above. Daily multivitimans usually have somewhere around 400 to 700, which would be 2800 to 4900 a week. So you can see there is a very big difference.

mirifique's avatar

@prescottman2008 Did someone say the sun “sprays out vitamin D”?

prescottman2008's avatar

@mirifique No, but all of the answers seem to be focusing on how to get more vitamin D in your diet. Without enough sunlight you could swim in vitamin D and it won’t do you any good. The question wasn’t about getting more vitamin D but how to over-come a lack of sunlight so the body can use it properly.

JLeslie's avatar

@prescottman2008 I don’t think that is right. Maybe a doctor can comment. Sunlight is converted to D in our bodies. Taking D is already D. Like take me. My D level was 17, I think it is supposed to be something like between 30–80. Now it is up to 39, but I am not getting more sun. Why would it be prescribed for people who do not get sunlight if it isn’t going to work without the sunlight?

BhacSsylan's avatar

@prescottman2008 That’s not actually true, sorry. The UV radiation is necessary for your body to metabolize the precursors to Vitamin D, thus creating Vitamin D. Your body requires Vitamin D, and the typical way to get enough is to absorb UV radiation. However, when UV rays are not in abundance, a multivitamin high in Vit D or a high-dose tablet will suffice. From Wiki: “Vitamin D is produced in the skin of vertebrates after exposure to ultraviolet B light”

Sources 1 2 3 4 and 5, in case there’s more confusion. These are also random sites from a quick google search, i can find an academic one if you’d prefer.

prescottman2008's avatar

And yet excess vitamin D is stored in fat until it can be metabolized by sufficient UVB so taking more than you need would be worthless without the required amount of sunlight exposure.

BhacSsylan's avatar

It is not metabolized by UVB. It is synthesized by it. Precursors may be stored, and Vitamin D may be stored, but after it is created, or ingested as pure Vitamin D, UVB plays no part.

JLeslie's avatar

@prescottman2008 No, not quite. You can overdose on vitamin D from a pill, but you cannot overdose on the sun.

gailcalled's avatar

Following the behavior of both my Internist and my dermatologist, I take 4000IU of D3 daily and stay out of the sun due to skin damage caused years ago. I have the D3 levels checked when I get blood work (25-hydroxy-something).

mass_pike4's avatar

@JLeslie: You can overdose from the sun…its called heatstroke and further down the road, skin cancer.

BhacSsylan's avatar

@mass_pike4 You can’t overdose on Vitamin D from the sun, though. Heatstroke and skin cancer are completely separate from Vitamin D synthesis (though lack of Vitamin D can lead to cancer, apparently).

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

A lamp that emits UVA spectrum is probably best. This allows the body to make its own Vitamin D in the skin. At the South Pole station, we all got 30 minutes three times a week with the lamp.

GracieT's avatar

I live in Ohio. I’ve seen therapists in three different places who have said I need a sunlamp for my mood, and the woman I’m seeing now also said that I need one for my physical health. They all said that actual sunlight is best, but because of where I live a sunlamp is the best idea.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Sorry, I get confused whether it’s UVA or UVB that one needs to synthesize Vitamin D.

JLeslie's avatar

@mass_pike4 you can’t overdose on vitamin D from the sun as @BhacSsylan said. That is what I was referring to. Of course you are right that the sun can lead to skin cancer or heat stroke (well heat stroke if it is hot out. It can be sunny and not hot).

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