New research says sunscreen use is leading to vitamin D deficiency.

New research says sunscreen use is leading to vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency is increasing rapidly in spite of the fact more people are taking supplements than ever before. According to an article in the Daily Mail (UK), 75% or the U.S. population are deficient in Vitamin D, and among African Americans, 95% are deficient.[1] Recent research in the Journal of the American Osteopath Association places the blame for this deficiency squarely on two factors:  (1) sun deprivation through sunscreen use, and (2) chronic diseases.[2]sunscreen

The paper makes perfect sense. It is known sunscreen use can inhibit up to 99% of the production of vitamin D by the skin.[3] And of course, chronic diseases themselves may be the effect of sunlight/vitamin D deficiency. So, in trying to prevent sunburn and skin damage, we set ourselves up for a spate of illnesses.

Caution is the best prevention for sunburn. One should never stay out until the skin turns red, and in the beginning stages of sun exposure, one should gradually increase it until a tan develops. A tan is a sign the skin is protecting itself against burning. In a landmark paper published in 1993 in the journal Preventive Medicine, Dr. Gordon Ainsleigh stated, “As melanoma research has demonstrated, the best prevention is regular exposure, thereby maintaining a protective tan and high vitamin D blood and tissue levels.”[4] And we now know that sun exposure produces photoproducts beyond vitamin D, such as nitric oxide, endorphins, and serotonin. Staying out of the sun, or blocking its rays, are recipes for health disasters. Queensland, Australia has vigorously promoted sunscreen for decades, and Queensland now has one of highest rates of melanoma in the world,[5] along with a rate of vitamin D deficiency which is becoming critical.[6]  The answer from the dermatologists, of course, is to prescribe more sunscreen and frighten more people out of the sun. Is that not the most counterintuitive decision of the century?

A much better choice than sunscreen is to simply leave the sun when it becomes too intense, or cover up with light, reflective clothing. Enjoy the sun, but do it carefully and never burn. And don’t destroy all the salubrious effects of the sun by using a noxious sunblock.

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4462730/Too-sunscreen-making-vitamin-D-deficient.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

[2] Pfotenhauer KM, Shubrook JH. Vitamin D deficiency, its role in heath and disease, and current supplementation recommendations. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2017; 117(5):301 – See more at: http://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/sunscreen-use-chronic-disease-linked-to-vitamin-d-deficiency#sthash.Yfx4Rbny.dpuf

[3] Matsuoka LY, Ide L, Wortsman J, MacLaughlin JA, Holick MF. Sunscreens suppress cutaneous vitamin D3 synthesis.  Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 1987; 64:1165-68.

[4] Ainsleigh G.  Beneficial effects of sun exposure on cancer mortality.  Preventive Medicine 1993;22:132-140.

[5] Garland CF, Garland FC, Gorham ED. Could sunscreens increase melanoma risk? American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 82, No. 4, April 1992, pp. 614-15.

[6]Van der Mei IA, Ponsonby AL, Engelsen O, Pasco JA, McGrath JJ, Eyles DW, Blizzard L, Dwyer T, Lucas R, Jones G. A high vitamin D insufficiency across Australian populations and latitude.  Environmental Health Perspect 2007;115:1132-39.

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