A new study looked into whether sunscreen is giving us vitamin-D deficiency, and the answer is a resounding yes.
Researchers found that sunscreen reduces the body’s production of vitamin D3 by 99 per cent, which consequently results in a deficiency when sunscreen is used all the time. Considering most Victorians are vitamin-D deficient, we may have found the culprit (besides the weather). This issue also affects children, who are religiously smothered in sunscreen.
Are sunscreen use and chronic disease linked?
Some diseases such as diabetes, celiac disease, and other gut-related issues can severely impact our ability to absorb nutrients through the intestinal lumen, and can contribute to vitamin-D deficiency, but so can sunscreen use, the study says.
The study is a review published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, discussing the concept that because vitamin D, being essential for bone health, assists in the absorption of calcium via the gut, the issues with deficiency are marked when it comes to bone health. Vitamin D also aids muscles and nerves, and has an immune system function.
Vitamin-D deficiency is generally described by medical practitioners as having blood levels of vitamin D lower than 20 nanograms per millilitre. Levels lower than this can lead to loss of bone density, increasing the risk of fractures, breaks, and osteoporosis.
It’s recommended that an adult should be getting 600-800 International Units of vitamin D each day. Food is not a great source of vitamin D, though fatty fish, beef liver and fortified breakfast cereals do contain some vitamin D. We get most of our vitamin D through the sun’s impact on our skin – sunlight penetrates the skin and turns a substance – 7-dehydrocholesterol – into active D3.
How do we get proper vitamin D levels when we’re told to never go outside without sunscreen on to avoid sun damage?
The researchers have recommended that individuals should avoid sunscreen use in the midday sun for between five and 30 minutes, twice weekly, but the researchers are in the North American sun where ozone exists in far greater levels than in Australia. That recommendation should be adjusted for the Australian sun, since 30 minutes of Australian sun is likely to result in sunburn.
Getting sun on your skin without sunscreen, however, is necessary to get proper vitamin D levels, which means moderating your risk of skin damage due to UV rays with this need. This means getting about 10-15 minutes of daytime sunshine (not necessarily midday sun) on bare skin (arms, legs, torso, back – the more skin, the better) daily for optimal levels of vitamin D. Taking a vitamin D supplement during winter can help when the days are shorter and the sun is hardly out, but speak to your dermatologist or doctor about recommended dosages of vitamin D, and how you can manage your requirements for vitamin D while caring for your skin.
Not sure how to deal with vitamin D and sun?
Talk to your dermatologist.