Central New York, Community, Environment, Health, Syracuse, Weather

Lack of Sun Causing Vitamin D Deficiencies in Central New Yorkers

Click here to see why lack of sunlight is landing some Central New Yorkers in the doctor’s office. 

Audio Transcript: Vitamin D transcript

By Natalie Maier, SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — In the months of November through March, the sunlight in Central New York is so scarce that our bodies are not producing any of their own Vitamin D.

Jane Burrell Uzcategui, a professor of nutrition at Syracuse University, says we must rely solely on our diets for Vitamin D during the winter.

“Anywhere above about a latitude of 42 degrees, the sun exposure in the winter is not sufficient to start the process of Vitamin D synthesis,” Uzcategui said.

Syracuse, New York sits above the 43 degree latitude line. The residents here see so little sun that local doctors offices, like Upstate Medical Joslin Diabetes Center, see lots of patients every year with vitamin D deficiency.

Dr. Ruban Dhaliwal is the director of the Metabolic Bone Disease Center at Joslin. She says she sees children with rickets and adults with osteoporosis – both illnesses caused by a severe lack of Vitamin D.

“We live in a region with very little sunlight, and sunlight through the ears and skin is the only way that the body makes vitamin D,” Dhaliwal said. “We also see people spending much more time inside than they used to, because our society works a lot more.”

Both Dhaliwal and Uzcategui agree that, while Vitamin D deficiencies are particularly prevalent in higher latitudes, even those living near the equator can experience the illness if they are spending too much time inside and out of the sun.

For those who aren’t getting sunlight exposure, a diet supplemented with Vitamin D is the next-best option. Uzcategui suggests fatty fishes like tuna and salmon, as well as whole milk, cereal and oatmeal, which are often fortified with Vitamin D.

Orange juice, whole milk, Cheerios, a can of tuna, oats, and salmon on a kitchen counter top.

Residents in Syracuse don’t get enough sun during the winter months to make Vitamin D, so we have to supplement our diets. (c) 2018 Natalie Maier

5-10 minutes of sunlight exposure a few times a week has all sorts of benefits, from bone strength and skin health to better mental health.