Excessive use of suncream may cause vitamin D deficiency
- that increases your risk of different diseases and premature death
Approximately one billion people worldwide lack vitamin D because they get too little sunlight, they overuse suncream, or they have chronic diseases that prevent proper utilization of the nutrient. This was shown in a new study that is published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. During the summer period, health authorities and organizations issue warnings against the sun and recommend the use of suncream. These campaigns, however, should ideally be accompanied by recommendations on how to get enough vitamin D from other sources. Otherwise, the campaigns may do more harm than good, as all cells in the body need this essential nutrient, and the sun is the single best vitamin D source.
Vitamin D deficiencies have become increasingly widespread as a result of our modern lifestyle with too much indoor activity, fear of the sun, and excessive use of suncream. People who live in the northern hemisphere are only able to produce vitamin D during the summer period, because the sun sits too low in the sky in the winter. Because of this natural limitation, people in the northern parts of the world risk a chronic vitamin D deficiency, if they fail to get enough sun exposure during the summer to fill up their deposits for the months to come.
According to the new report, 95% of the African American population lacks vitamin D, which is a result of their dark skin that is designed to protect against sun damage but also means that these people need longer sun exposure in order to produce vitamin D. Professor Kim Pfotenhauer from Touro University in California, who headed the study, underlines the importance of protecting ourselves against sun damage and skin cancer but says at the same time that it is important to realize that moderate sun exposure (unprotected) is an effective way to boost the skin’s own vitamin D synthesis in a natural way.
Pfotenhauser also says that chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and kidney ailments, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease (gluten intolerance) inhibit the body’s ability to utilize the vitamin from food sources. For that reason, large parts of the population need more vitamin D than the official recommendations.
He explains that in order to synthesize vitamin D, a person does not necessarily have to go to the beach. Normally, exposing your arms, legs, and face to 5-30 minutes of unprotected sun during the early part of the day twice weekly covers the body’s needs. The farther away from Equator you live, and the darker your skin is, the longer sun exposure it takes to synthesize enough vitamin D. A person’s ability to synthesize vitamin D also depends on genes, age, and the use of certain types of medicine that block the synthesis of the nutrient, for instance cholesterol-lowering statins (vitamin D is made from cholesterol)
Lack of sunshine takes more lives than getting too much sun
A WHO report that is mentioned in the science journal Environmental Health Perspectives in 2008 concludes that diseases caused by lack of UVB radiation override by far diseases caused by getting too much UVB radiation. In other words, we get too little sunlight.
A Swedish study from 2016 monitored 30,000 women for 20 years to see how much time they spent in the sun. The researchers found that women who spent time in the sun lived longer than women who did not sunbathe regularly. In fact, women who avoided the sun and did not smoke had the same life expectancy as women who smoked and sunbathed. The study actually demonstrates that avoiding the sun is just as dangerous as smoking. The study is published in Journal of International Medicine and suggest the need for new campaigns that address sun exposure and vitamin D levels.
Remember avoiding sunlight is every bit as dangerous as smoking!
Lack of sunlight increases the risk of cancer-related deaths by around 40 percent
Vitamin D is primarily known for its role in boosting bone health and the immune defense, but all cells in the body need this vitamin, which is considered a hormone.
Danish scientists from Herlev Hospital and the University of Copenhagen conducted a study of 96,000 people and found that having low levels of vitamin D in the blood was linked to a 30 percent increased mortality risk. More specifically, they found a 40% increased risk of cancer-related deaths.
Did you know that even people who are sun-worshippers and are diagnosed with normal skin cancer live six years longer on average than the general population?
It is possible to use suncream and still synthesize enough vitamin D
It is a bit of a challenge to get enough sunshine to synthesize the required amount of vitamin D without burning. Therefore, a good idea is to gradually get used to the sun in the early spring and slowly build a slight but protective tan. Sunlight consists of different ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB), and the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin depends on the strength of the UVB radiation. By applying suncream to your skin, you filter out UV rays – by means of either a chemical or a physical filter. The higher the factor number on the suncream, the more UV radiation you filter out.
If a person has delicate skin and an increased risk of burning, it is a good idea to use suncream. However, Professor Leif Mosekilde from Århus University has stated that if you use a factor higher than 8 and apply it correctly, the skin is no longer able to produce vitamin D. He therefore advises people to get 20-30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure before applying suncream. That way they are sure to produce enough vitamin D.
How much vitamin D do we produce?
Half an hour of sun exposure to the entire body during the summer period is believed to produce around 250-500 micrograms of vitamin D. 30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to the hands and face produces around 15-30 micrograms of vitamin D, and factors such as the strength of the UVB rays, skin type, age, chronic diseases, and the use of certain medications also play a role. The current recommendations for vitamin D are believed by some experts to be too low, simply because our ancestors in the southern hemisphere originally synthesized far more vitamin D.
Measuring vitamin D in the blood
Vitamin D levels in the blood are measured as 25-hydroxyvitamin. The official threshold value in many countries is 50 ng/ml of blood, but leading experts claim that this is too little and recommend as much as 75-100 ng/ml for optimal disease prevention.
Healthy doses of summer sun and supplements
Vitamin D prevents a host of different diseases. For those who fail to get enough sun during the summer period, vitamin D supplements are a good idea. Most people at our latitude can benefit from high-dosed vitamin D supplements in the winter period where the sun is not sufficiently strong for us humans to produce vitamin D.
Lack of vitamin D may increase the risk of
American Osteopathic Association. Widespread vitamin D deficiency likely due to sunscreen use, increase of chronic diseases, review finds. ScienceDaily. May 1, 2017
Silas Mortensen. Danner kroppen D-vitamin, hvis man har solcreme på? Videnskab.dk
Lindquist PG, Epstein E, Nielsen K et al. Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. Journal of Internal Medicine. 2016
Afzal Shoaib et al. Genetically low vitamin D concentration and increased mortality: mendelian randomization analysis in three large cohorts. British Medical Journal. 2014
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