You Are My Sunshine: Benefits of a “Sunlight Diet”
Whether you prefer a spray tan, natural tan, or television screen tan, we can all benefit from a little UV once in a while. Toss your sunscreen aside (but feel free to bring your shades, a hat, and a water bottle) and keep reading to learn the amazing benefit of a “sunlight diet”.
Unlike other diets, a “sunlight diet” (1) is 100% FREE, (2) requires ZERO sweating or food restriction, (3) works IMMEDIATELY. So, what’s a “sunlight diet”? For starters, to understand the sunlight diet is to understand the role of Vitamin D–the vitamin that between 2001-2010, almost 29% Americans were deficient in and over 40% of Americans had insufficient levels of[i]. Vitamin D is essential for:
- Maintaining healthy bones, nails and teeth[ii]
- Supporting healthy immune system[iii], brain (including learning and memory[iv]), and nervous system
- Supporting healthy lungs[v] and cardiovascular system[vi]
- Supporting healthy eyes[vii], pancreas[viii], hair and skin[ix]
- Supporting weight managementviii
- Supporting healthy aging[x]
- Managing sleep patterns[xi]
- Regulating insulin levels to help with diabetes management[xii]
- Lifting up your mood and supporting overall mental health[xiii]
The estimated average required (EAR) amount of vitamin D in seniors is400 IU (10 mcg/day, but the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 600 IU (15 mcg/day) for seniors between 51 and 70 years old and 800 IU (20 μg/day) for seniors over 70[xiv]. The National Academy of Medicine recommends shooting for an upper limit of 4,000 IU (100 mcg/day) just in case. Your skin is designed to generate large amounts of vitamin D simply by exposing it to the sun. How much sun, you ask? According to Mayo Clinic, getting 15 minutes of afternoon sun on your arms, legs, face and chest every other day (without sunscreen) is enough to soak up a healthy dose of Vitamin D on fairer skin.
Much like how quickly someone gets a sunburn (ouch!), people absorb vitamin D from the sun differently. There are a several factors that play into this: age, location, altitude, ozone layer, pigmentation, clothing, weight, etc. For example, the closer you live to the equator, the easier it is to get vitamin D through sunlight[xv] (another great reason to be a Texan; yee-haw!).
Melanin is like natural sunscreen. It’s our body’s primary way of preventing DNA damage from UVB rays. By allowing less of these “tanning” rays to enter the skin, less vitamin D is produced each minute in skin with more melanin. African Americans and Latinos, therefore, absorb less vitamin D compared to someone who is lighter[xvi]. Because vitamin D is oil soluble, it hides in fat, and therefore, the more body fat one has, the more sun he or she may need[xvii]. Those with darker skin and/or who are overweight, will need about 3 times more sun to produce enough vitamin D. That sunlight diet is at least 1 hour and 30 minutes of sun bathing.
Before you whip out your itsy bitsy teeny weenie yellow polka dot bikini….make sure you have enough supplemental nutrients to ensure your body can use that vitamin D. The Vitamin D Council suggests that you’ll need enough vitamin K, vitamin A, magnesium, boron, and zinc (except that zinc in sunscreen) to boost your sunshine diet. As always, follow the rule of thumb of talking with your physician about the appropriate amount of sun you are safely able to expose your skin to. Existing diet, medications, and health conditions may make it unpleasant or unsafe to sun soak for even a short period of time.
[i]Liu, X., Baylin, A., & Levy, P. D. (2018). Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency among US adults: prevalence, predictors and clinical implications. British Journal of Nutrition, 119(8), 928–936. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007114518000491
[iii]Prietl, B., Treiber, G., Pieber, T., & Amrein, K. (2013). Vitamin D and Immune Function. Nutrients, 5(7), 2502–2521. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu5072502
[iv]Al-Amin, M. M., Sullivan, R. K. P., Kurniawan, N. D., & Burne, T. H. J. (2019). Adult vitamin D deficiency disrupts hippocampal-dependent learning and structural brain connectivity in BALB/c mice. Brain Structure and Function. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-019-01840-w
[v]Chesdachai, S., & Tangpricha, V. (2016). Treatment of vitamin D deficiency in cystic fibrosis. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 164, 36–39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsbmb.2015.09.013
[vi]Judd, S. E., & Tangpricha, V. (2009). Vitamin D Deficiency and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease. The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 338(1), 40–44. https://doi.org/10.1097/maj.0b013e3181aaee91
[vii]Reins, R. Y., & McDermott, A. M. (2015). Vitamin D: Implications for ocular disease and therapeutic potential. Experimental Eye Research, 134, 101–110. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exer.2015.02.019
[viii]Wallbaum, P., Rohde, S., Ehlers, L., Lange, F., Hohn, A., Bergner, C., … Jaster, R. (2018). Antifibrogenic effects of vitamin D derivatives on mouse pancreatic stellate cells. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 24(2), 170–178. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v24.i2.170
[ix]Bikle, D. D. (2016). Extraskeletal actions of vitamin D. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1376(1), 29–52. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13219
[x]Meehan, M., & Penckofer, S. (2014). The Role of Vitamin D in the Aging Adult. Journal of Aging and Gerontology, 2(2), 60–71. https://doi.org/10.12974/2309-6128.2014.02.02.1
[xi]Gao, Q., Kou, T., Zhuang, B., Ren, Y., Dong, X., & Wang, Q. (2018). The Association between Vitamin D Deficiency and Sleep Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 10(10), 1395. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101395
[xii]Ostadmohammadi, V., Milajerdi, A., Ghayour-Mobarhan, M., Ferns, G., Taghizadeh, M., Badehnoosh, B., … Asemi, Z. (2019). The effects of vitamin D supplementation on glycemic control, lipid profiles and C-reactive protein among patients with cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 25. https://doi.org/10.2174/1381612825666190308152943
[xiii]Penckofer, S., Kouba, J., Byrn, M., & Estwing Ferrans, C. (2010). Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 31(6), 385–393. https://doi.org/10.3109/01612840903437657
[xiv]Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. (2011). National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/13050
[xv]Holick, M. F. (2004). Vitamin D: importance in the prevention of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 79(3), 362–371. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/79.3.362
[xvi]Gutiérrez, O.M., Farwell, W.R., Kermah, D. et al. Osteoporos Int (2011) 22: 1745. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00198-010-1383-2
[xvii]Walsh, J. S., Bowles, S., & Evans, A. L. (2017). Vitamin D in obesity. Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity, 24(6), 389–394. https://doi.org/10.1097/med.0000000000000371