Friday, February 16, 2018

Sunscreen and Vitamin D.

People, Man, Woman, Holding Hands  With spring on the way and the days getting longer, we are heading into the time of year when people spend more time outside than in.  The sun provides vitamin D which is used to help the body absorb calcium used in building bones.

The body produces vitamin D when skin is exposed directly to sun, it uses Ultraviolet B(UVB) rays with a protein in the skin to create D3.

If you've followed any of the current advice, it is recommended everyone wear sunscreen every day, even inside or on cloudy days to protect the body from the damaging rays of the sun.  Use of SPF 15 or higher will cut down on the chance of squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and premature aging.  In addition, sunscreen cuts down on the possibility of DNA mutations leading to skin cancer.

Even with this information, it is often mistakenly assumed that in addition to protecting the skin, sunscreen will keep the body from producing vitamin D naturally because the sunscreen blocks the sun's rays.  Although the higher SPF sunscreens are designed to block out much of the UVB rays because they are the rays that causes sunburn and skin cancer, they are also the rays that trigger vitamin D production.

There are no studies out there which support the idea that when you wear sunscreen, you block your body's ability to produce D3.  Instead the studies show that even with high SPF sunscreen, the body is able to produce sufficient vitamin D because they do not block all the rays.  Even with the best sunscreen between two and seven percent of the rays manage to get through to the skin.

It does not take much UVB to produce enough vitamin D in your body to meet its needs.  Even though there is a belief that a person should expose their unprotected skin to the sun for 10 to 15 minutes no more than three times a week but even that short exposure can cause damage.

When in doubt, there are other ways to make sure your body has enough vitamin D.  It could be done with food such as certain fatty fish, vitamin D fortified foods, and if all else fails take it in supplemental form.

If a person does not get enough vitamin D, their bones can soften.  In children, this condition is referred to as rickets while older adults who do not have enough vitamin D and calcium, they can develop Osteoporosis.  

So the bottom line on the question is go ahead, wear sunscreen, make sure you eat well and add supplements if you are not sure but limit the supplements because you do not want to experience Vitamin D toxicity. 

Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear from you.

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