(NaturalNews) Regularly exposing your skin to natural sunlight is arguably the best way to maintain optimal levels of vitamin D. But according to researchers from the Arizona Cancer Center (ACC), not everyone gets enough vitamin D from the sun, which means they may need to supplement in order to maintain optimal levels.
"Seventy-five percent of Tucsonians are actually below the target levels that we want them to be at and part of that is because of the ethnic make up of Tucson," explained Dr. Beth Jacobs from ACC.
People with darker skin tones tend not to benefit as much from sunlight exposure as people with lighter do. Though lighter-skinned people tend to get sunburned more easily, their skin is more respondent to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun that trigger vitamin D production in the body.
Additionally, most people spend very little time outside anyway, which means that their vitamin D levels are likely far below what they should be. Spending roughly 15 minutes a day in the sun during the summer can trigger high production of vitamin D -- and people are more likely to do this during the warmer months -- but throughout the rest of the year, cold weather and poor sun angles make it difficult to gain much, if any, benefit from sunlight exposure.
So researchers at ACC have been evaluating the effects of many popular vitamin D supplements to see how well they fare, and results so far have been positive.
"We're purchasing the supplements off the shelf just like any population would do," said Jacobs in a report. "Particularly for colon cancer, there's a lot of data that suggests vitamin D is very helpful."
Recent studies illustrate that current recommendations for vitamin D intake are far too low. Sunlight exposure can produce up to 20,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D in the body every day, but current guidelines recommend a mere 400 IU a day for adults. Experts hope that these guidelines will be updated to encourage higher intake.