There’s a common misconception that if individuals live in sunny places, they must also make plenty of vitamin D from the sun. However, people fail to acknowledge that there are a wide variety of factors that affect the body’s vitamin D production, including (but not limited to):
A recent study tested the theory that individuals who live in sunny places also receive more vitamin D. The researchers measured the vitamin D status of 254 Moroccan adults. All adults were above the age of 50 years and were considered healthy. Vitamin D deficiency was defined as levels below 10 ng/ml, and vitamin D insufficiency was defined as levels below 30 ng/ml Here are the results from their analysis:
The researchers concluded,
“If the location of Morocco is theoretically between latitudes of 32° 0’ N and longitudes of 5° 00’ W, then it gets plenty of sunlight throughout the year and should not experience poor vitamin D status…Despite a sunny environment, we found in this study a high prevalence of hypovitaminosis D in Moroccan men over 50 years old and postmenopausal women.”
The researchers explained the possible reasons why Moroccan individuals have such a high prevalence of low vitamin D levels,
“Many factors can contribute to poor vitamin D status in Moroccan men and women…Indeed, Moroccan people avoid the sun and have a more pigmented skin, also their clothing style prevents exposure of the body to direct sunlight…”
The study illustrates the need to make a conscious effort to achieve a healthy vitamin D status. Unfortunately, even if we live in a location with an abundance of sun exposure, we are not guaranteed an adequate amount of vitamin D. The Vitamin D Council recommends that individuals sunbathe when their shadow is shorter than they are tall, and as mentioned before, only for about half the time it takes for your skin to begin to burn. Going out in your swimsuit will allow the UVB to reach most of your skin, increasing the amount of vitamin D your body makes. On days you cannot receive safe sun-exposure, we recommend that you supplement with 5000 IU vitamin D3.
Tovey, A. & Cannell, JJ. Nearly 90% of older Moroccan men and women have low vitamin D levels. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 2016.