Sunscreen use and chronic disease may lead to vitamin D deficiency

Luis Britez

Staff Writer

As finals loom and with summer right around the corner, we should all be conscious about going outside and taking in some sun. Not just to enjoy the warm weather, but to stay healthy. In fact, not taking in the sun will actually cause deficiency levels in your vitamin D.

This is what researchers have discovered in a clinical review published in “The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.” According to their results, almost 1 billion people in the world have insufficient levels of Vitamin D due to chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure. According to the Endocrine Society,an international medical society dedicated to hormonal research and clinical practice of endocrinology, insufficient levels means that the level of Vitamin D is between 21 and 30 nm/ml, while anything below of 20 nm/ml is considered deficiency. Vitamin D is considered a hormone, which is produced when someone gets exposed to sunlight. It is necessary in many functions of the body, including cell growth modulation, neuromuscular and immune function and inflammatory reduction. Without it, a person is looking at weakness in their muscles along with bone fractures. Chronic diseases such as Type II and Crohn’s has a negative effect on the body being able to metabolize vitamin D from food sources.

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel
A recent study published in the The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association suggests that application of sunscreen prevents sun exposure and reduces the body’s production of vitamin D.

Researchers are finding that people are spending less time outside, while noting that the people who spend time outside apply sunscreen. Sunscreen, while protecting you from skin damage from high ultraviolet rays, greatly inhibits the body’s ability to produce vitamin D. This doesn’t mean to start sunbathing until your skin fries. According to researcher Dr. Kim Pfotenhauer, “a simple walk with arms and legs exposed is enough for most people”. Foods with essential vitamin D sources include milk, breakfast cereals, and Portbello mushrooms are loaded with this essential hormone, so it’s important to incorporate them into your daily diet.

A notable discovery in this same study finds that 95 percent of African-American adults may have insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels. Due to a person’s skin pigmentation, lighter skin is more able to synthesize vitamin D than people with darker skin. This is why researchers recommend abstaining from applying sunscreen when taking in the sun. Applying sunscreens with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 15 or greater can decrease vitamin D3 production by 99 percent.

There is currently ongoing research that is trying to find the role of vitamin D deficiency in severe diseases such as multiple sclerosis, respiratory disease, and cancer. Despite this, Dr. Pfotenhauer insists that sufficient vitamin D is more about overall health, rather than being linked to different diseases. With all of this in mind, be sure to take a break from the study room and go enjoy the sun, because you’ll be helping out your health as well.

One Comment

  • Marc says:

    It is great to see an article that recognizes the downside of sunscreens. It should also be known that since sunscreens were introduced, the risk of melanoma has increased exponentially. Sun exposure is vital for human health, and recent research has shown that sun deprivation leads to the death of 336,000 people per year in the U.S. Here are some health facts about sun exposure that you may not know:

    •A 20-year Swedish study shows that sun avoidance is as bad for the health as cigarette smoking.
    •A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as those who stay indoors.
    •Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.
    •Women who avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.
    •Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period as those who stay indoors.
    • Sun exposure decreases heart attack risk by causing the skin to produce nitric oxide.
    • Sunbathing can produce up to 20,000 units of vitamin D in 20 minutes of whole-body exposure.
    •Sun exposure dramatically improves mood through the production of serotonin and endorphin.
    For references and articles:

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