Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Food Science and Nutrition


Food Science and Nutrition


Laura Hall, PhD, RD


As the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency continues to grow, mounting evidence supporting its link with chronic disease strengthens suggesting vitamin D’s candidacy in the prevention and treatment of multiple disease states and their complications. Dietary guidelines, however, do not take sun exposure into account. The present study sought to explore the impact of sun exposure on vitamin D status (serum 25(OH)D), and identify other significant determinants of serum levels which may have the greatest effects on overall health. Participants (n = 34) were pre-menopausal women aged 18 to 50 years (mean age 39 ± 6 years), who had their blood drawn at a local pathology lab and a follow-up appointment at a health assessment lab for the collection of other measurements. Mean serum 25(OH)D level was 64 ± 18 nmol/L, and mean dietary vitamin D intake was approximately 327 ± 229 IU/day. Although 82% of participants were below the RDA guidelines (600 IU/day for females ages 9-50 years) for dietary vitamin D intake, only 32% had serum 25(OH)D levels < 50 nmol/L (the recommended level of sufficiency for bone health) reflecting deficiency. While serum 25(OH)D levels were significantly correlated to dietary vitamin D intake (r = 0.42, p = 0.0139), it is reasonable to assume that participants obtained adequate vitamin D from sun exposure. Fasting serum insulin levels were significantly, positively correlated with BMI (r = 0.83, p < 0.0001), and sun exposure index (Body Surface Area x Minutes of Direct Sunlight) was significantly, positively correlated with serum 25(OH)D levels (fall weekend SEI: r = 0.47, p = 0.0059; spring weekend SEI: r = 0.43, p = 0.0135; average weekend SEI: r = 0.43, p = 0.013; and average overall SEI: r = 0.39, p = 0.0247). Reported sun exposure appeared to be least during winter weekdays and the most during summer weekends. Regression analysis was used to determine the strongest predictors of serum 25(OH)D levels, which were found to be sun exposure, dietary vitamin D intake, skin reflectance, age, BMI, and ethnicity (R2 = 0.58 , p = 0.0031), demonstrating that simple questionnaires, such as those employed in this study, can help to predict serum 25(OH)D status and thus be considered in the future treatment of vitamin D deficiency.