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Vitamin D and safe sun exposure

3 min read

Studies continuously show that we are amid a vitamin D deficiency pandemic

A clinical review in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association shows that nearly 1 billion people around the world aren’t getting enough vitamin D - this might be because of chronic disease in some cases but in many its to with the lack of exposure to the sun. 

“People are spending less time outside and, when they do go out, they’re typically wearing sunscreen, which essentially nullifies the body’s ability to produce vitamin D,” states Kim Pfotenhauer, a researcher on the study.

Amber Tovey, program manager at the Vitamin D Council has stated.

"Studies continuously show that we are amid a vitamin D deficiency pandemic,” 

A hypercautious approach to sun safety could be to blame

“Sunscreen plays a large role in the vitamin D deficiency pandemic,” Tovey said. “Due to the danger of skin cancer many people are afraid of the sun, and they use sunscreen any moment they go outside, neglecting their bodies of the readily available natural vitamin D from the sun,”

But Tovey emphasizes people should still be sensible about sun exposure.

This does not mean that skin cancer is not a real threat to one’s health. One should take the proper precautions to not receive excessive amounts of sun exposure. It’s all about moderation,” she said.

So while its important people protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D.

UVB is the only wavelength that will produce vitamin D

You might be interested to know that sunlight is composed of about 1,500 wavelengths, however UVB is the only wavelength that will produce vitamin D when hitting unexposed skin. When UVB strikes the surface of the skin, it converts a cholesterol derivative into vitamin D3. UVA’s on the other hand actually destroy vitamin D, they increase the risk of skin cancer and cause photoaging of the skin. 

No more than 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure is needed to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D

Getting vitamin D from the sun should come easily and without the risk of skin cancer due to the fact that it doesn’t take much sun exposure for the body to produce vitamin D. No more than 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to arms, legs, abdomen, and back, two to three times per week, followed by good sun protection is recommended. That minor amount of exposure produces all the vitamin D your body can produce, after which point your body automatically starts to get rid of it anyway to avoid an overload of the vitamin. After 15 minutes your sun exposure is giving you nothing but sun damage without any of the presumed benefit.

Astaxanthin acts as an internal sunscreen

An excellent partner to vitamin D is the antioxidant astaxanthin. Not only can it act as an internal sunscreen, protecting your skin from harmful solar radiation but it also appears to have a rejuvenating effect on skin in general. Two human clinical studies were recently performed to test the effects of astaxanthin on skin aging.  In the first, 30 healthy female subjects were given 6 mg per day of oral astaxanthin plus 2 ml per day topical astaxanthin application, for eight weeks.  The women showed improvement in skin wrinkle size, age spot size, elasticity, skin texture, and moisture content.

The second study was a similar test on 36 healthy male subjects for 6 weeks.  The men showed improvement in crow's feet wrinkle size and elasticity, transepidermal water loss, moisture content and sebum oil level.

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.