Look, we all want healthy bones and a better mood. But they shouldn’t come at the cost of healthy skin. Yep, we’re talking about vitamin D, which is crucial for bone strength and may alleviate depression, studies have shown. It’s 100 percent true that one way to get it is exposure to sunlight, but there are also a whole lot of misconceptions about vitamin D that we need to clear up.
Myth 1: You need UV rays to get vitamin D.
Truth: Nope—sorry, tanning-bed lobbyists. Even if you’re deficient (and that’s a big if, but we’ll get to that in a moment), there are other ways to get vitamin D. Read on.
Myth 2: Supplements aren’t as effective as sun exposure.
Truth: “An over-the-counter vitamin D3 supplement is just as good as sun exposure,” says Anthony Norman, a vitamin D researcher and professor of biomedical sciences at the University of California, Riverside, who recommends 2,000 to 3,000 IU (international units) a day. (Make sure you’re taking D3, not D2, for the highest potency. And of course check with your doctor before taking any supplements.)
Myth 3: Living in a less-sunny climate means you’re more likely to be vitamin D deficient.
Truth: Not necessarily. Studies have shown that Eskimo populations can have high vitamin D levels, while some surfers have low ones, says dermatologist Heidi Waldorf. What does make you susceptible to vitamin D deficiency? “Pregnancy, breast-feeding, old age, malnourishment, kidney disease, absence of any UV exposure, and obesity,” says Waldorf. Some reports suggest that nearly half of the world population might not be getting adequate amounts of vitamin D. But there’s a big caveat: “It’s likely due to malnutrition and a decrease in outdoor activities in developing countries,” says Waldorf.
Myth 4: You can get enough vitamin D by sitting in the sun for just a few (harmless!) minutes.
Truth: To produce the recommended daily allowance—600 IU for women up to age 70 and 800 IU for those older than 70—would require the average woman to spend up to one sunscreen-free hour in the sun every week.
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