Most Koreans are too busy working or studying to go out and get a healthy amount of sunshine. To make matters worse, when people do venture out, most of them hide from the sun’s rays behind sunscreen or parasols.
Exposure to sunlight causes human skin to produce vitamin D, which helps prevent osteoporosis, depression and cardiovascular diseases.
According to a national health and nutrition survey conducted in 2010, 93 percent of Koreans had vitamin D deficiency.
“As most Koreans prefer fair skin, they try to avoid exposure to the sun. And as adults tend not to eat many dairy products, vitamin D deficiency is common”, said Kim Kyung-min, a professor at Seoul National University Hospital in Bundang.
Experts say spring is just the right time to start going out and soaking up some vitamin D-producing sunlight.
Korea is located 35 to 38 degrees north of the equator, making it possible to obtain vitamin D from sunlight from April to November. Exposing the skin for 10 to 20 minutes between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. three times a week, wearing shorts and short sleeves, produces about 800 to 1500 IU of vitamin D in the body.
Daily use of sunscreen is not recommended. A sunscreen with a protection factor of over 15 blocks up to 98 percent of UV rays, obstructing vitamin D production.
Moderation is advised, however. “Exposing the skin to sunlight too often or for too long during summer can cause sunburn and other skin disorders”, said Park Min-sun, a professor at Seoul National University Hospital. “Elderly people, in particular, need to be careful as they are at risk of fainting or skin cancer if they get too much sunlight”.