The dilemma: Experts believe nearly 77 percent of us come up short on intake of vitamin D, says a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This is a problem, because studies have linked a lack of vitamin D to depression, heart disease, decreased immunity, birth defects, skin and other cancers, multiple sclerosis and cognitive decline. One way to get it is from the sun, so should we skip the SPF to make sure we're meeting the recommended dietary allowance of 1,000 IUs?
The advice: For your body to make enough vitamin D using the sun alone, you'd need strong, direct sunlight on most of your bare skin for at least 15 minutes. That's not worth the risk of UV damage and skin cancer, says Ellen Marmur, MD, vice chair of cosmetic and dermatologic surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, especially since melanoma has more than doubled among women in the past 30 years. Even when you carefully protect your skin from the sun, you'll still most likely absorb UV rays through your scalp, or from the light that gets reflected from the ground and finds its way under your sun hat or beach umbrella. If you're concerned about your vitamin D levels, Marmur recommends asking your doctor for a blood test and making up for deficits by consuming more swordfish, salmon, vitamin D-fortified milk or OJ, and by taking supplements.