HEALTH

Sunshine during Utah’s winter season doesn’t help our bodies produce vitamin D

Dec 11, 2023, 2:00 PM

snow...

Pedestrians walk through a snowstorm in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 24, 2023. (Ryan Sun, Deseret News)

(Ryan Sun, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s sunlight during the winter doesn’t help our bodies produce the sunshine vitamin. Utah is settled above the 37th parallel in the northern hemisphere, which means the UV-B rays that contain vitamin D do not adequately reach the state in the winter.

Why is vitamin D important?

Vanessa Browning, a registered clinical nutritionist and dietician at the Madsen Health Center explained why vitamin D is necessary.

“Vitamin D’s main function for us is for absorbing calcium and phosphorus and bone development and bone mineralization,” she told KSL NewsRadio. “So it’s a really important vitamin.”

One of the best ways for the body to produce vitamin D is through sunlight. When UVB rays react with our skin, vitamin D is created.

Unfortunately, because Utah is situated in the northern hemisphere, Browning said UVB rays cannot reach the state.

“We’re in these northern hemisphere states where we’re getting these cold winters, and we’re above the 37th parallel. The UV rays do not reach us adequately in the wintertime,” she said.

However, because Utah’s winters are so cold, Browning explained that even if a little bit of UVB made it to the state, “usually we’re cold and we’re inside so we’re not getting it anyway.”

How to get vitamin D in the winter

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include soft bones or rickets disease in children, or osteoporosis in older adults. However, these symptoms will only happen in extreme cases of deficiency.

Browning said it is fairly easy to keep vitamin levels up, in ways including eating fortified foods such as milk and orange juice or taking supplements and multivitamins.

While sunlight is a major source of vitamin D, most people can get it from other sources.

“I think most people are probably getting it from fortified foods, supplementation like a multivitamin,” said Browning. “That’s most likely where people are getting their vitamin D.”

Browning said children, older adults, those with darker skin tones, and people with digestive issues are most at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

If you feel you may be at risk, she suggests speaking to a doctor to decide the best ways to keep vitamin D levels healthy.

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Sunshine during Utah’s winter season doesn’t help our bodies produce vitamin D