By Jenny Ewen, BA, Marketing and Student Services

Vitamin D is the best part of sunshine (besides the warmth). It is essential to your body because it is necessary to absorbing calcium and phosphorous (making strong bones and teeth), boosting your immune system, staving off depression, and even protecting against certain diseases, such as cancer. An easy way to get Vitamin D is from sun exposure (even just a few minutes a few times a week) - but you also have to be careful, since exposing bare skin to the sun puts you at risk for sunburns that can lead to skin cancer.

The good new is that research has shown that even if you wear sunscreen, your skin is still able to use the sun’s rays to produce Vitamin D, although the higher the SPF level, the less Vitamin D your skin will be able to produce - this is why even living in a sunny location might not guarantee enough Vitamin D. So we have to look for other sources to get Vitamin D, such as fish oil, certain types of fish, eggs, and milk. Alternatively, you can buy Vitamin D supplements and take them every day - if you take a multivitamin, there’s probably already some Vitamin D in there.

Taking and getting Vitamin D is easy, unless you have to live through long Minnesota winters, don’t tend to eat much fish (being landlocked in the midwest doesn’t help with that), and forget to take your vitamins. That’s why it’s estimated that one billion people worldwide are Vitamin D insufficient or deficient - which means your body is severely lacking in its Vitamin D supply.

Deficiency can lead to rickets, a bone problem, in children, or osteomalacia in adults. The diseases go much farther than your bones though when you’re Vitamin D deficient - deficiency has been linked to metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, and neurological disorders. A couple symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are bone pain and muscle weakness.

So how can you avoid Vitamin D deficiency? Well, the obvious answer is to get out in the sunshine (with sunscreen!) this summer. In addition, make sure you’re taking a Vitamin D supplement every day - go to your doctor to find out how much you should be taking, or get tested (a simple blood test) to see if you’re Vitamin D deficient, in which case you can get a prescription for a therapeutic dose of Vitamin D. Taking Vitamin D supplements can be a year-round thing, since it’s pretty difficult to get too much Vitamin D.

So get out and enjoy the sun in moderation this summer, and get your dose of sunshine and Vitamin D in pill form to ensure optimal health year-round!