Sun and Vitamin D

If you are avoiding the sun for fear of harmful UV rays, you might want to get your vitamin D levels checked. According to a recent study, light-skinned people who stay out of the sun are twice as likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency as those who don’t.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed data from a national survey collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 2003 to 2006. About 6,000 people were asked questions about sun-protective behavior, including whether they wore sunscreen, long sleeves, and hats and whether they stayed in the shade when the sun was out. The survey also included each respondent’s race and their blood levels of a form of vitamin D.

The investigators found that Caucasians who avoided the sun by staying in the shade or wearing sun-protective clothing had lower blood levels of vitamin D than those who did not. They did not find this association between sun avoidance and reductions in vitamin D levels in African-American or Hispanic survey-takers. The authors of the study say this could be due to the pigmentation in darker skin that naturally protects against the sun. They were surprised to find that the reported use of sunscreen did not affect vitamin D levels significantly. However, they believe this is due to people not applying sunscreen often enough or not putting enough on.

The authors of the study say these findings confirm the importance of the issue of vitamin D supplementation. In addition to taking over-the-counter dietary supplements, you can also increase the amount of vitamin D in your diet by drinking fortified milk, eating fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, and eating fortified breakfast cereal.