Sunscreen is considered to protect our skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. However, a new study suggests sunscreen use and chronic diseases - such as diabetes, celiac disease, and other conditions that affect the body's ability to absorb nutrients from food contribute to nearly 1 million cases of vitamin D deficiency around the world.
Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D. Sunlight penetrates the skin and converts a vitamin D precursor, called 7-dehydrocholesterol, to the active form of vitamin D-3. Vitamin D is essential for bone health, as it helps the gut to absorb calcium. The vitamin also aids muscle and nerve function, and it helps the immune system to stave off infection.
People have been more aware about health risk of sun exposure . Thus, they are spending less time outside and when they go out, they are more likely to apply sunscreen, which nullifies the body’s ability to produce vitamin D, expert says. The risks of the sun exposure such as sunburn and skin cancer cannot be ignored. However, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure can be helpful in boosting vitamin D. Researchers suggest individuals should avoid using sunscreen when exposed to mid day sun for up to 30 minutes twice weekly to increase and maintain vitamin D levels in the body.
Researchers recommend a simple walk with arms and legs exposed is enough for most of the people but the appropriate time rely on the person’s geographical location and skin pigmentation – lighter skin synthesize more vitamin D than darker skin.
The researchers add vitamin D supplementation is also a good way to boost vitamin D levels, as it does not pose the risks associated with sunlight exposure. Food sources such as milk, breakfast cereals, and Portobello mushrooms are also fortified with vitamin D. Supplements are a good option, as they are effective and pose few risks, as long as they are taken as directed and a physician is consulted beforehand.
Vitamin D insufficiency is defined as between 21 and 30 ng/ml and deficiency is considered below 20ng/ml by the Endocrine Society.