5 Factors That Affect Vitamin D Status

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

sun-in-sky-with-clouds One of the leading nutrients on the forefront of scientific research is vitamin D. Also called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is important for immune system support, blood sugar health, and energy. [1] [2] A deficiency in this essential micronutrient is unknowingly plaguing millions of people worldwide. In order to avoid a vitamin D deficiency, you must take conscious, proactive steps to combat the factors that affect absorption. Vitamin D supplementation is the ideal method for reducing deficiency risk, especially in the winter. Sunlight is also a simple and natural approach for balancing vitamin D levels.

Things That Affect Vitamin D

Factors that affect vitamin D absorption are sometimes easy to overcome; however, as you will read in the following post, factors such as skin color and air quality are far less controllable. Here are some things you should be aware of if you are concerned with keeping your vitamin D levels in check:

1. Sunscreen

The use of sunscreen has been touted as a healthy method for preventing sunburn, skin cancer, and excessive aging of the skin. While this may be true, sunscreen can actually increase the risk for cancer because of its strong blocking action against vitamin D. [3] Sunscreen typically blocks UVB rays, the rays responsible for activating the production of vitamin D. If you plan on going outside for a long period of time, allow your skin to soak up the rays without sunscreen for at least 15-20 minutes. Then, apply an organic sunscreen to all exposed areas.

2. Weight

Body fat absorbs more vitamin D and acts as a storage center for the nutrient. Having a healthy body fat percentage can be helpful for ensuring adequate vitamin D levels all year round, regardless of whether you are supplementing or not. [4] Obesity, however, tends to correlate with lower vitamin D status, prompting many health officials to believe that being overweight increases the risk for deficiency. A healthy weight loss plan may reduce the likelihood of vitamin D deficiency, along with other health conditions.

3. Skin Color

Melanin, the substance that gives skin its pigment, competes for UVB to produce vitamin D. That means the more melanin you have (or the darker your skin color), the greater chance you will suffer from deficiency. [5] Dark-skinned people need more time in the sun, or more International Units (IUs) of vitamin D from supplements, to raise vitamin D blood levels into a healthy range.

4. Air Quality

Organic particles from the burning of wood, fossil fuels, and other materials are scattered in outdoor air and are absorbing UVB. This makes it difficult to achieve proper vitamin D absorption from sunlight alone. Living in an urban environment with air that is heavily polluted also presents issues for vitamin D production. [6] If this is your situation, it may be advised to supplement with vitamin D while having your doctor monitor your vitamin D status.

5. Location

During the winter, UVB light exerts less impact on the earth’s surface. This is especially true the further away you get from the equator. Supplementation is often warranted during the winter to ensure healthy levels no matter how far from the equator you are. The short daylight hours combined with the wearing of long sleeves and pants also limits exposure to vitamin D-producing rays.

One Final Thought

In order to know whether or not you need to supplement with vitamin D, you must have your blood levels checked by your doctor. Ask for a 25 hydroxyvitamin D test to determine your status. Your doctor should be able to advise the appropriate supplementation amount needed for reaching a healthy level. The Vitamin D Council recommends a healthy vitamin D level of 40-80 ng/mL.

What do you do to handle your vitamin D levels? Do you supplement? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this crucial nutrient!

References (6)
  1. Cynthia Aranow, MD. Vitamin D and the Immune System. J Investig Med. Aug 2011; 59(6); 881-886. doi: 10.231/JIM.0b013e31821b8755.
  2. George PS, Pearson ER, Witham MD. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on glyaemic control and insulin resistance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabet Med. 2012 Aug;29(8):e142-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2012.03672.x.
  3. Debska O, Kaminska-Winclorek G, Spiewak R. Does sunscreen use influence the level of vitamin D in the body? Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2013 Jun;34(204):368-70.
  4. Arunabh S, Pollack S, Yeh J, Aloia JF. Body fat content and 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in healthy women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Jan;88(1):157-61.
  5. Shoenfeld N, Amital H, Shoenfeld Y. The effect of melanism and vitamin D synthesis on the incidence of autoimmune disease. Nat Clin Pract Rheumatol. 2008 Feb;5(2):99-105. doi: 10.1038/ncprheum0989.
  6. Hosseinpanah F, Pour SH, Helbatollahi M, et al. The effects of air pollution on vitamin D status in healthy women: a cross sectional study. BMC Public Health. 2010 Aug 29;10:519. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-519.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • Ross Pomroy

    What about Vitamin K supplementation along with the Vitamin D?

  • Zu schlau für diese Scheiße

    Let’s not overlook the geo-engineering going on in the skies. Aluminum particles sprayed all over the sky to reflect the sunlight back into space= much less vitamin D available from the sun.

  • Steve

    I take Vit D suppliments especially in the winter @4,000 a day.

    I also know Vit K and magnesium are important to take with Vit D. Vit D, Vit K, Magnesium and Calcium all work together and if they are not balanced can cause problems.

    However getting information on the proper ratio of each, how much to take of each etc.. is very difficult to come by. Personally I would appreciate an article or some guidance on this??

  • Right you are, although having a balance of all nutrients is mandatory. A lot of times when the conversation gets focused on one, it’s easy to think that’s being pushed as the most important thing in the world when in reality it’s one piece in the puzzle of nutrition.

  • Wanda Pruitt

    I supplement with 10000 Vitamin a day. Liquid in capsules from a company called Maximum D3. Also take K2 and magnesium. Still a little confused on what is the best form of magnesium.

  • Cathy

    I have read that knowledgeable doctors now recommend a minimum of 10,000 iu per day.

  • Sondra Hodson

    My doctor recommended that I take 5000 IU of D3 per day. However, it gives me severe heartburn. Any thoughts on what to do about this?

  • You could try to offset it with something like raw, organic apple cider vinegary, or take less D3.

  • luna works

    A very important point about low Vitamin D levels is that it can be an indication of a chronic systemic infection such as Lyme Disease and other tick borne illnesses. This along with other indicators can be a significant piece of the puzzle when diagnosing mysterious health issues.

  • Lynda

    Dr.Group,
    I have just gone through a series of blood tests! To make a long story short, I was robbed at gunpoint, and because of my fears I don’t go out very much except to work in my yard which can be 4 hours or more. In the winter I am out shoveling snow. I am 62 years old and always weighed about 115-120 lbs, and lifted weight. my weight now hovers 140 or lower. My calves and triceps are quite muscular, my bmi is 24.9 which I have heard if you are muscular it can be higher than the norm without being obese. My Dr. said upon the results of my tests that I have high cholesterol 294, and the highest Vit D deficiency he has ever seen in all his years of practice. I was immediately started on a D3 supplement of 400 units twice a day! I don’t understand how my D got this bad, since I spend so much time outdoors. Could it be connected to the fact that I have Graves disease which I am pleased to say that after 4 years of treatment has now gone into remission! I have always taken care of my health, so anything I can gain from your insight would be most appreciated. Could it be any of the medicines I have been on? The list is Propanolol, cellexa, Klonopin, Methimazole, and Adderall. Now since this diagnosis I have added Vit D supplementation and Fish oil
    Thanks in advance, maybe someone knows something I don’t! Lynda

  • Tough to say, could be a variety of things, or one thing… prescription meds come with a range of weird side effects, but so does Grave’s. Take the supplemental vitamin D for a while and have your levels checked again, see if that helps you out.

  • Michaeljc59

    well 400iu isn’t really that much at all, I was on vitamin D2 50,000iu once a week for 12 weeks then on vitamin D3 5000iu daily with 600mg of calcium daily as I am disabled and a home body person and only go out to stores or doctors 3 times a month and my vitamin D level was very very low but now I can feel a difference in the reduction of lower back pain due to my disability and because of this have lowered my dose of opioid pain meds drastically which now I no longer have a fogged up head, lol, so yea getting vitamin D test to see what your level is is first step then your doctor will prescribe the type and dose and strength of D vitamin to get you started then afterwards will get you on a lower dose and strength along with calcium which should help greatly as it usually takes 2 or more months before you really notice any real changes like I did….

  • Liz

    Take potassium, too.

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