Factors that influence the cutaneous synthesis and dietary sources of vitamin D

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2007 Apr 15;460(2):213-7. doi: 10.1016/j.abb.2006.12.017. Epub 2007 Jan 8.


The major sources of vitamin D for most humans are casual exposure of the skin to solar ultraviolet B (UVB; 290-315 nm) radiation and from dietary intake. The cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D is a function of skin pigmentation and of the solar zenith angle which depends on latitude, season, and time of day. In order to mimic the natural environment of skin to sunlight exposure, we therefore measured serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in volunteers with different skin types following repeated UV irradiation. Because melanin pigment in human skin competes for and absorbs the UVB photons responsible for the photolysis of 7-dehydrocholesterol to previtamin D3, we also studied the effect of skin pigmentation on previtamin D3 production in a human skin model by exposing type II and type V skin samples to noon sunlight in June when the solar zenith angle is most acute. Vitamin D is rare in food. Among the vitamin D-rich food, oily fish are considered to be one of the best sources. Therefore, we analyzed the vitamin D content in several commonly consumed oily and non-oily fish. The data showed that farmed salmon had a mean content of vitamin D that was approximately 25% of the mean content found in wild caught salmon from Alaska, and that vitamin D2 was found in farmed salmon, but not in wild caught salmon. The results provide useful global guidelines for obtaining sufficient vitamin D3 by cutaneous synthesis and from dietary intake to prevent vitamin D deficiency and its health consequences, ensuing illness, especially, bone fractures in the elderly.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Dehydrocholesterols / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fish Products*
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Salmon
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D / biosynthesis*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / prevention & control
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamins / biosynthesis*


  • Dehydrocholesterols
  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D
  • 7-dehydrocholesterol