Beatriz García

Expose yourself to the sun without cream 10 minutes a day, the advice in the face of the general lack of vitamin D

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Yes, you read correctly. After a lifetime of warning us about sunbathing and recommending creams with a high factor against ultraviolet rays, now many doctors are saying the opposite: that we have to expose ourselves to sunlight without protection because the general population lacks vitamin D But, like everything else, this statement has important nuances: you should never sunbathe in the middle of the day without protection, and the specific advice for general population is that we expose ourselves about ten or fifteen minutes a day to natural light, not to direct sun, without cream.

Because most of the population has some vitamin D deficiency, due to the more indoor-focused lifestyle. This has been the case for years, and has worsened with the pandemic, when teleworking and quarantines have increased. But that does not mean that healthy people who have somewhat low vitamin D have to take medication, or that they have to launch sunbaths. “Middle ground and common sense,” insists Rodrigo Aispuru, spokesman for the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians SEMERGEN. And it is corroborated by Maria del Campo, spokesperson for the Program for Preventive Activities and Health Promotion (PAPPS) of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (SemFYC): “Measuring vitamin D levels because it is not recommended in a healthy population by any scientific study, there is no evidence that makes us do this screening.

What is vitamin D

Vitamin D is the element that allows the absorption of calcium in the body. “Actually, more than a vitamin, it is a hormone. It was discovered 100 years ago and was classified in vitamins, but its functions are more similar to those of a hormone. It helps us capture calcium from food and it goes to the bones. If its level is low no matter how much we take calcium, we do not assimilate it. More studies, although less conclusive, link vitamin D with depression, for example. That is why there has been a boom in the analysis of vitamin D even in healthy people”, contextualizes Aispuru. It is indicated to measure its level in women around menopause, elderly people who do not leave home or institutionalized elderly people. Because they are the ones who, in case of not assimilating calcium They could have health problems.

“This is more of a fad than a health issue,” Del Campo is blunt: “The general population is being indiscriminately asked to measure the level of vitamin D, when You only have to analyze it if there are pathologies, or there are any symptoms. But as its level is analyzed indiscriminately, it can come out a little low and we turn something normal into a disease. We can tend to medicalize life, and what you have to do is have a healthy lifestyle.”

Tips: natural light and sun

And yes, to raise vitamin D levels you have to be exposed to the sun. But, as anticipated at the beginning of the article, you should not sunbathe directly, nor for a long time, nor at central hours of the day.

Dr. María del Campo, from SemFYC, specifies what healthy people should do who want to improve their vitamin D levels by medical recommendation: expose yourself to the sun for 10-15 minutes about three days a week, without sun protection. But with nuances:

  • Avoid central hours of the day and apply cream if it is going to be a long exposure to the sun. “For example, at the beach or the pool you always have to use sun protection and repeat its application every several hours.”
  • “The best is take a walk or go for a run in the morning. This, in addition to exposing yourself to natural light, incorporates physical activity into your routine.”

“You have to be cautious, because people are very extreme. Sun exposure is as good for vitamin D as it is bad for your skin. The benefit-risk must be measured, so the population must be warned that direct exposure is relative, because there are studies that support that half an hour of indirect exposure is sufficient,” says the SEMERGEN spokesperson.

That is, the sun does not paste on the skin, but in the shade to natural light. And yes, it is true that with factor 50 sun protection you do not absorb the sun to generate vitamin D. But, in the words of Aispuru, “you have to go somewhere in between: avoid direct sun because there are more and more skin pathologies by the sun, but let it give us natural light”.

The dermatologist Rosa Tabarner, member of the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, assures that one should not be obsessed with vitamin D, since with an exhibition of a small walk or trips to go to work can be enough: “80% – 90% of the amount of vitamin D that we need is synthesized from a chemical reaction that takes place in our skin thanks to the incidence of a very specific fraction of solar radiation, which is why the sun is necessary,” explains Tabarner.

And he adds: “With 15-20 minutes a day or every three days in a small area of ​​​​our body is enough to have the necessary vitamin D. It is a mistake to think that we must spend hours and hours in the sun to synthesize vitamin D“. The dermatologist explains that after 20 minutes our body is saturated and no matter how much we are exposed to the sun we have already obtained the necessary vitamin D, it will never accumulate.

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