Moderate tanning, for individuals who can develop a tan, is the smartest way to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks associated with either too much or too little sunlight.
This position is founded on the following tenets:
The professional indoor tanning industry promotes and teaches what we refer to as The Golden Rule of Smart Tanning: Don't ever sunburn.
The indoor tanning industry has been more effective at teaching sunburn prevention than those who promote complete sun avoidance. Non- tanners sunburn more often than people who tan indoors.
An estimated 30 million North Americans patronize indoor tanning facilities at some point during the year.
Every year, millions of indoor tanners successfully develop "base tans" before embarking on sunny vacations - tans that, combined with the proper use of sunscreen outdoors, help them prevent sunburn.
Public debate on this issue has completely lost the perspective that there are known physiological and psychological benefits associated with sunlight, that there are many other potential benefits that need further research, that the risks are manageable for anyone who has the ability to develop a tan and that, for many people, the benefits of sun exposure outweigh the risks associated with overexposure.
A tan is the body's natural protection against sunburn. Your skin is designed to tan as a natural body function, and the body is designed to repair sun damage as a natural process.
The professional indoor tanning salon industry is part of the solution in the ongoing battle against sunburn and in teaching people how to identify a proper and practical life-long skin care regimen.
Vitamin D: One Big Reason We Need Sun Exposure
The Sunshine Vitamin' is linked to lowering your risk of several forms of cancer and many other diseases.
Exposure to UVB present in sunshine and in most tanning beds is the body's natural way to produce vitamin D, accounting for 90 percent of vitamin D production. Dietary "supplements" are just that: Supplemental ways to produce vitamin D.
What's more, research has shown that people who utilize indoor tanning equipment that emits UVB -which most tanning equipment does - also produce vitamin D. And studies have also shown that indoor tanning patrons have higher vitamin D blood levels than non-tanners.
While the North American indoor tanning industry promotes itself as a cosmetic service, one undeniable side-effect of that cosmetic service is vitamin D production. Even though it may not be necessary to develop a tan to produce vitamin D, this should also be considered: There is growing consensus that humans may not be able to get enough vitamin D through dietary supplements alone (especially if recommended vitamin D levels are raised, as is widely anticipated, from 200-600 IU daily to 1,000-2,000 IU) and growing acceptance of moderate sun exposure as the best, cheapest, most widely available and most natural source. (In comparison, an 8-ounce glass of whole milk is fortified with just 100 IU of Vitamin D). Further, because research suggests that the risks associated with sun exposure are most likely related to intermittent sunburns, it is credible to believe that the benefits of regular, moderate non-burning exposure outweigh the easily manageable risks associated with overexposure.
New research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in American adults today, suggesting that up to 90 percent of North Americans are vitamin D deficient and that vitamin D deficiency has significant implications on human health. Indeed, two world-wide conferences on Vitamin D were convened in 2006 in North America, with universal consensus that Vitamin D deficiency is a real problem. As a result of those conferences, the American Cancer Society and the Canadian Cancer Society - which had both preached sun abstinence for years - both recognized for the first time in May 2006 that some sunlight is necessary for human health.
It is likely that over-usage of sunscreen in climates and seasons when sunburn is not a possibility -- sunscreen almost completely prevents vitamin D production -- has contributed to this problem. This is especially significant because:
A 2006 systematic review of 63 studies on vitamin D status in relation to cancer risk has shown that vitamin D sufficiency may reduce one's risk of colon, breast and ovarian cancers by up to 50 percent.
Additionally, vitamin D deficiency is a leading cause of osteoporosis, a disease affecting 25 million Americans which leads to 1 million hip and bone fractures every year. In elderly individuals, such fractures are often deadly. Encouraging everyone to wear sunscreen all year long in any climate undoubtedly is contributing to this problem, as vitamin D is necessary for the body to properly process calcium.
Vitamin D deficiency most likely plays a role in the development of muscular sclerosis, according to the Calgary based charity Direct-MS. (You can learn more about this by visiting www.direct-ms.org.)
Vitamin D deficiency is also believed to be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer and even heart disease.
Additionally, a new Canadian Group, the Vitamin D Society, has been launched in 2006 to educate Canadians about Vitamin D deficiency and fund new Vitamin D research. Its web site is www.vitaminDsociety.org.
"Current research indicates vitamin D deficiency plays a role in causing 17 varieties of cancer, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects and periodontal disease," the Vitamin D Council writes on its web site. "This does not mean that vitamin D is the only cause of these diseases, or that you will not get them if you take vitamin D. What it does mean is that vitamin D, and the many ways in which it affects a person's health, can no longer be overlooked by the healthcare industry or by individuals striving to maintain, or achieve, a greater state of health."
While public health officials have floundered at how to craft a message that recognizes the both the benefits of sunlight and the risks of overexposure, the professional indoor tanning industry has for more than a decade promoted a balanced message about sunlight. The tanning industry's core belief: Moderate tanning, for individuals who can develop a tan, is the smartest way to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks associated with either too much or too little sunlight.
Sunburn prevention -- not sun avoidance -- is the key
Holick MF. Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004: 80(6 Suppl); 1678S-1688S
Vin Tangpricha, Adrian Turner, Catherine Spina, Sheila Decastro, Tai C Chen and Michael F Holick. Tanning is associated with optimal Vitamin D status (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration) and higher bone mineral density. Am J Clin Nutr 2004; 80:1645-9.
Holick MF. High Prevalence of Vitamin D Inadequacy and Implications for Health. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. March 2006; 81(3): 353-373.
Garland CF, Garland FC, Gorham ED, Lipkin M, Newmark H, Mohr SB, Holick MF. The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Prevention. Am J Pub Health. 2006, Vol. 96 No. 2; 9-18.
Hundreds of additional research references can be found in these four papers. tableWorkaround2(1751)
"Sun Scare": How Commercialism Has Twisted Proper Sun Care
Scaring people out of the sun is a multibillion-dollar business. Smart Tan coined the term "sun scare" in 1996 to properly identify those who were distorting the truth about sunshine's complex relationship with human health in order to scare you out of the sun. Some "sun scare" groups profit by marketing a distorted sun abstinence message, while others simply tell you to avoid any and all sun exposure because they don't trust you to make your own informed decision about proper sun care:
Cosmetic Corporations - These giant "cosmeceutical" firms are driven by multibillion-dollar profits and are the leading purveyors of "sun scare." These sunscreen manufacturers are marketing their products to block any and all UV exposure rather than simply for sunburn prevention. Sunscreen companies are enjoying record profits right now. For instance:
$9 billion pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough (Coppertone) reported sun-care related sales of $204 million in 2005, up 16 percent from 2004 and up 40 percent from 2003, making the division one of Schering-Plough's best performers by percentage growth.
$50 billion Johnson & Johnson's consumer products unit - which markets sun care products like Neutrogena and Aveeno, is one of the pharmaceutical giant's most profitable divisions, with increased sales of $2.36 billion in the first quarter of 2006 alone. Neutrogena's marketing uses some of the most aggressive sun-scare tactics of any sunscreen company. In marketing its "Age Shield" SPF 45 product, Neutrogena warns people, "As part of your daily skin care regimen, Neutrogena recommends Healthy Defense SPF30 Daily Moisturizer to combat damage from daily sun exposure."
Beauty magazines - Chock full of cosmetic advertising, the average North American beauty magazine contains 21 pages of anti-sun-related advertising in every issue. That's an estimated $1 million a month in revenue for many beauty magazines, which explains why their editorial message is so heavily slanted against sunshine.
One prominent example of how advertising affects beauty magazine coverage of this issue: Cosmopolitan magazine sold sponsorship of a cover feature on sun care to Neutrogena in May 2006. The package of stories - as beauty magazines often do - featured and recommended usage of Neutrogena products. Further, Cosmo Editor Kate White personally trumpeted the message of her advertiser on a publicity tour that included a prominent interview on NBC's The Today Show in April. Neutrogena products were featured on that appearance as well. In essence, Cosmopolitan has compromised its editorial integrity and has officially become a paid lobbyist for the cosmeceutical industry, which markets its product based on all-out fear and denial of the benefits naturally derived from sunlight.
Skin Care Lobbying Groups - The American Academy of Dermatology, the Skin Cancer Foundation and the National Sun Safety Alliance all are prime examples of groups that the public perceives to be independent and altruistic, but which have strong ties to the pharmaceutical manufacturers of sunscreen products. This is one reason why most of these groups still recommend daily usage of sunscreen 365 days a year for people in all climates despite the fact that such a regimen clearly promotes over-use of sunscreen and may be contributing to the epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency in North America today.
Some purveyors of "sun scare" have deluded themselves into thinking that it is acceptable to overstate the risks associated with overexposure in order to convince people to moderate their sun exposure habits. This segment of the anti-tanning "sun scare" lobby, in an effort to rightfully increase awareness about sun care, often says the wrong thing the wrong way for the right reasons. But the fact that the intention - to reduce skin damage - is right does not give them a free pass to obscure the facts and ignore conflicting data, as they often do. For example:
Some dermatology industry leaders still maintain that there are no known health benefits to regular sun exposure. This position is totally non- defendable. There is plenty of well-researched material documenting the positive physiological and psychological effects of UV exposure. They are in full denial.
"People who practice proper sun protection and are concerned that they are not getting enough vitamin D should either take a multivitamin or drink a few glasses of vitamin D fortified milk every day. ..Dietary intake of vitamin D can completely and easily fulfill our needs." - Dr. Raymond L. Cornelison Jr., then-president of the American Academy of Dermatology, in a July 3, 2003 AAD press release entitled, "Vitamin D + Sunshine = Bad Medicine." This isn't true - sunshine is the body's natural way to make vitamin D, and the vitamin D community has agreed that one cannot reliably make vitamin D through dietary supplementation alone.
Some dermatology industry leaders, in efforts to increase awareness about sun care, have clearly overstated the risks associated with UV exposure. For example, dermatology industry leaders have gone on record advocating daily use of sunscreen 365 days a year in all climates. This is clearly misbranding the product in seasons and climates where sunburn is not a possibility. Further, this over-use of sunscreen completely prevents the body from naturally manufacturing vitamin D. And vitamin D deficiency in our society appears to be epidemic.
"Overwhelming evidence links the development of most skin cancers to exposure of skin to ultraviolet radiation contained in sunlight. (Vitamin D Scientists Dr. Michael) Holick hints that judicious daily exposures might be safe. However, I believe that every photon hitting the skin could produce a photo-mutation leading to skin cancer." - Dr. Mark V. Dahl, past president of the American Academy of Dermatology in a 2003 editorial criticizing Holick's work published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Dahl's comment that any bit of sun exposure could lead to skin cancer is akin to saying that any car trip is dangerous and therefore people should not drive a car - it's not the most accurate way to portray the relationship.
Some dermatology industry leaders, in attempts to scare people out of the sun, still compare tanning to smoking, making the statement that indoor tanning is like a cigarette for your skin. This hyperbole is nothing short of ridiculous:
Smoking introduces unnatural substances into your body that your body is not designed to process. In contrast, your body is designed to process UV light, and in fact is reliant on UV exposure for natural body functions.
Smoking is related to 20 percent of all deaths in the United States and 30 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
Lung cancer rates are 22 times higher for current male smokers and 12 times higher for current female smokers as compared to non- smokers. In contrast, there are no studies showing that tanning in a non-burning fashion is related to any increase in skin cancer risk. This is critical, because we believe that burning, not moderate tanning, is the significant UV-related risk factor.
18 of 22 studies ever conducted on indoor tanning and melanoma have shown no connection at all, including the most recent and largest study on the topic. The four older studies that have alleged small increases in risk have all contained unexplained statistical anomalies, such as failing to control for confounding variables such as outdoor sun exposure. In some studies, frequent tanners had lower risk as compared to non- tanners, which also is unexplained.
The public and the press look up to medical professionals as objective sources of public health information. But when dermatology industry lobbyists obscure the facts and distort the picture to attempt to influence health policy, that creates an abrogation of trust that is unfortunate for all parties involved, and the consumer suffers.
By: John Galt
Over the last two decades the sun has become our enemy. News reports caution against any unprotected exposure to this menace and health experts plead with us to get off the beach and under some sort of cover. SPF (originally short for Sun Protection Factor) has become a noun and skin care products (and even clothing) are chock full of it. Skin cancer is predicted to become an epidemic, and exposure to the sun is to blame.
While there is certainly ample evidence that excessive ultraviolet exposure is a risk factor for the development of melanoma (and may cause premature aging of the skin), there is another side to that coin. When our skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, it produces a crucial chemical compound erroneously called Vitamin D. Without sufficient ultraviolet exposure (and a lack of adequate dietary Vitamin D to make up for the lost endogenous production), a host of systems in the human body cease to function properly, if at all.
Vitamin D History
As the Industrial Revolution took hold in Europe and the previously agrarian population began to move to growing, smoggy cities in order to find industrial jobs, a mysterious affliction began to strike the children of industrial workers in epidemic proportions. Called "rickets", it was characterized by skeletal bones that did not harden but remained cartilaginous.
What Was The Industrial Revolution? The rapid industrial growth that began in England during the middle of the eighteenth century and then spread over the next 50 years to many other countries, including the United States. The revolution depended on devices such as the steam engine, which were invented at a rapidly increasing rate during the period. The Industrial Revolution brought on a rapid concentration of people in cities and changed the nature of work for many people.
Children stricken with rickets were slow to crawl and walk and had telltale deformities in their leg bones. Rachitic children also often suffered from painful spasms in their hands and feet, difficulty breathing and persistent nausea. In severe cases, rickets was fatal.
In 1822 a Polish physician named Jedrzej Sniadecki noted an odd geographic distribution of rickets cases in and around Warsaw. Children living in the city itself were much more likely to develop rickets than those living in the outskirts or in the rural areas outside of the city. He concluded (correctly) that rickets was related to lack of exposure to sunshine.1
He published his findings in Polish, however, and they were not widely read. Rickets continued to plague the industrial cities of Europe and the United States for another century. The only other cure that proved effective (but was not widely promoted by the physicians of the day) was the folk tradition of giving cod liver oil to children upon weaning, to provide additional fats. What was not known ithat cod liver oil is an excellent source of Vitamin D.
Discovering Vitamin D:
By the end of the 19th century, rickets had become a real problem (in Britain and Scotland especially), and there was great interest in finding a cure. In 1892, British scientist T.A. Palm rediscovered the geographic distribution of rickets that Sniadecki had noted seventy years earlier and in 1919, German scientists showed that rickets could be cured by exposure to artificially produced ultraviolet light.
In 1922 Elmer McCollum, working at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore identified a fat-soluble constituent in cod liver oil that could cure rickets. Following the alphabetical designation of vitamins A, B and C all isolated earlier, McCollum dubbed this new substance Vitamin D.2
"Recommended Daily Allowance"
Because it can be produced by the human body in response to UV exposure, Vitamin D, also known as cholecalciferol, is not technically a vitamin. The name is still widely used, however and is still somewhat appropriate because of the quasi-essential nature of this nutrient in populations living in areas that do not get sufficient sunlight.
Unfortunately, like many other vitamins, since determining the minimum dose required to ward off diseases of clinical deficiency, this has stubbornly remained as the "recommended daily allowance", which for Vitamin D is 400 IU or 10 micrograms. In northern areas of the United States , especially in the winter, this amount of supplemental Vitamin D is probably less than half of what is required to maintain optimal serum levels.3
Vitamin D Functions
Functionally, cholecalciferol functions more like a steroid in the human body. One of its most important functions is the regulation of calcium absorption and metabolism. Without sufficient Vitamin D, even if there is sufficient dietary calcium available, it will not be properly absorbed and metabolized. Beyond calcium metabolism, Vitamin D is now being recognized as critical to a number of other body systems.4
There is an interesting epidemiological trend that seems to indicate that the incidence of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, hypertension and certain cancers is directly related to seasonal and geographical variations in ultra violet light exposure. While there are clearly many factors at work, there is growing evidence that a deficiency of Vitamin D levels in response to reduced sun exposure may play a substantial role in these variations.5,6
Disease Inhibitory Effects:
Vitamin D has a powerful inhibitory effect on the growth of many cancers, including, ironically, some skin cancers.7,8 While excessive UV light exposure is a known risk factor for the development of melanoma, a chronic Vitamin D deficiency created by complete avoidance of unprotected exposure to sunlight will very likely lead to a substantially increased risk of developing other cancers or life-shortening disease.
In fact, one rather interesting study published in 2005 estimated that, while the annual economic costs of excessive UV exposure in the United States (mainly the treatment of melanoma) is $6-7 billion dollars, the economic burden associated with premature death and disease directly relatable to vitamin D deficiency was almost 10 times greater.9
This certainly makes sense as the cancers that appear most closely associated with Vitamin D deficiency are colorectal, prostate and breast; some of the most common and deadly forms of cancer in the United States.
Vitamin D is also closely tied to cardiovascular health. As noted earlier, death from cardiovascular disease fits seasonal and geographical variability that suggests strongly that lack of sun exposure is a factor in its etiology. There is also more direct evidence of the role of cholecalciferol in cardiovascular health.
Although much of its cardio-protective effect is probably via improvements in calcium absorption and metabolism, Vitamin D also reduces serum parathyroid levels. While this effect is thought to be central to cholecalciferol 's cancer preventative effect, elevated parathyroid levels are also associated with the development of cardiovascular disease. Although once suspected as a risk factor for cardiac disease, newer research indicates that the risk acute myocardial infarction actually shows a strong inverse relationship to circulating Vitamin D levels.14,15
One of the best known health benefits of adequate Vitamin D intake/production is bone strength.16 Remember that the primary disease of cholecalciferol deficiency is rickets, characterized mainly by extreme abnormalities in skeletal development in children.
Later in life, insufficient Vitamin D intake can lead to osteoporosis or, in extreme cases, a form of adult-onset rickets called osteomalacia. Older men, and especially women, are prone to bone mass loss and fracture. Additional Vitamin D, either in the form of a supplement or from additional sunlight exposure reduces the risk of fractures and falls in elderly people.17,18
Immune System Modulation:
Perhaps one of the most intriguing effects of Vitamin D in humans is immune system modulation. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease characterized by progressive loss of muscular control believed to be caused by the immune system attacking the nervous system. The cause is unknown but it is five times more common in temperate zones than in the tropics.19
The Central Nervous System. The human central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. These lie in the midline of the body and are protected by the skull and vertebrae respectively.
This collection of billions of neurons is arguably the most complex object known.
The central nervous system along with the peripheral nervous system comprise a primary division of controls that command all physical activities of a human.
Neurons of the central nervous system affect consciousness and mental activity while spinal extensions of central nervous system neuron pathways affect skeletal muscles and organs in the body.
That the incidence of a disease that follows this familiar pattern of distribution is inversely related to cholecalciferol intake/production should come as no surprise.20,21 Most recently, a huge epidemiological study of over 180,000 women showed that those with the highest serum Vitamin D levels had a 30% lower risk of developing MS and those who consumed more than 400 IU per day saw a 40% reduction.22 Vitamin D is also showing promise as a potential modulator of other autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.23
Vitamin D Sources
The best and safest way to get adequate Vitamin D is to get sensible exposure to natural sunlight on bare skin. Artificial sunlight, such as that produced by a tanning bed, will also induce cholecalciferol in the skin, so long as it provides adequate UVB light.
During the summer months in most of the northern hemisphere, twenty minutes of UV exposure three times a week is all that is required to ensure sufficient Vitamin D production in persons with light skin color. However, there is insufficient solar intensity during the winter to produce vitamin D in northern latitudes like the upper Mid-West and New England.24
UV (Ultraviolet) The name means "beyond violet" (from Latin ultra, "beyond"), violet being the color of the shortest wavelengths of visible light.
Some of the UV wavelengths are colloquially called black light, as it is invisible to the human eye. Some animals, including birds, reptiles, and insects such as bees, can see into the near ultraviolet.
Many fruits, flowers, and seeds stand out more strongly from the background in ultraviolet wavelengths as compared to human color vision. Many birds have patterns in their plumage that are invisible at usual wavelengths but seen in ultraviolet, and the urine of some animals is much easier to spot with ultraviolet.
Darker skinned individuals also require either higher intensity light or must spend more time exposed to produce the same amount of Vitamin D.25 During the winter months, individuals living in northern areas must get their cholecalciferol via diet or oral supplements.
Vitamin D is found in cod liver oil and is also added to fortified dairy products in the United States . It is also widely available in supplemental form either by itself or as a part of a multivitamin. It is often combined with calcium supplements to enhance absorption.
Because this vitamin is stored in fat and will accumulate, oral supplementation should be limited to no more than 2000 IU per day. Excessive Vitamin D intake can lead to calcification of the organs and, paradoxically, loss of bone density.
Sunbathing Boosts Men's Testosterone (thanks to vitamin "D")
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) By increasing circulating levels of vitamin D, sunbathing may help increase men's testosterone levels and thereby their sex drive, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Medical University of Graz, Austria, and published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology.
"Men who ensure that their body is at least sufficiently supplied with vitamin D are doing good for their testosterone levels and their libido among other things," said Ad Brand of the Netherlands-based Sunlight Research Forum.
Researchers tested vitamin D and testosterone levels of 2,299 men over the course of several months. They found that like vitamin D levels, testosterone levels peaked in the summer and dropped during the winter. They also found that men who had at least 30 nanograms of vitamin D in every milliliter of blood had the highest levels of circulating testosterone.
Vitamin D is produced by the body upon exposure to sunlight. Scientists recommend that light-skinned people get at least 15 minutes of direct sun per day on their face and hands, while darker skinned people may need up to three times as much. The body can synthesize all the vitamin D it needs in a fraction of the time it takes to sunburn.
"Enjoying the sun safely while taking care not to burn should help people strike a balance between making enough vitamin D and avoiding a higher risk of skin cancer," said Jessica Harris of Cancer Research UK.
Sunscreen blocks the ultraviolet radiation necessary for the body to synthesize vitamin D.
As people spend less time in the sun, vitamin D deficiency has become an issue of growing concern, especially in regions far from the Equator where the sun is weaker.
Vitamin D is now known to not only help the body develop and maintain a healthy skeleton, but also to help regulate the immune system and prevent against chronic health conditions such as heart disease, dementia and cancer.
Sources for this story include: news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8493042.stm.
Vitamin "D" Promotes Memory and Cognitive Function in Seniors
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
(NaturalNews) A lack of vitamin D has already been linked in several studies to depression. Now it appears a deficiency of this crucial nutrient could also play a role in robbing the brain of the ability to process information correctly and clearly.
Defined as a person's ability to process thoughts, cognitive function includes memory and the ability to learn new information, as well as speaking and reading comprehension. Aging is known to affect cognitive function in many people, resulting in memory loss and difficulty thinking of the right words while speaking or writing. But what if a lack of vitamin D could be the culprit that is causing or contributing to cognitive impairment in many elders -- and not simply aging by itself? If that's the case, it offers hope that adequate vitamin D could help keep minds agile and memory sharp.
Research headed by epidemiologist Katherine Tucker with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, and published in Journals of Gerontology raises that possibility. Metabolic pathways for vitamin D have been found in the hippocampus and cerebellum -- areas of the brain involved in planning, processing, and forming new memories. So it appears a lack of vitamin D could disrupt these cognitive processes.
Dr. Tucker and her colleagues studied more than 1,000 elders receiving home care. The research team investigated associations between measured levels of vitamin D in the blood of these people, who were all between the ages of 65 and 99, and compared them to results of neuropsychological tests. The participants were then grouped by their vitamin D status, which was categorized as deficient, insufficient, or sufficient.
The researchers noted in a statement to the media that older people needing home care have an elevated risk of not getting enough vitamin D because of their exposure to sunlight is often limited. And, in fact, only 35 percent of the research subjects had sufficient vitamin D levels in their blood for health. Those elders who did have adequate vitamin D scored far better on cognitive tests than those in the deficient and insufficient vitamin D categories, particularly on measures of executive performance, which included cognitive flexibility, perceptual complexity, and reasoning. The associations persisted after taking into consideration other variables that could also have influenced performance on the cognitive ability tests.
Another new study just presented at the Endocrine Society's 92nd Annual Meeting held in San Diego provides more disturbing evidence that older adults commonly have low vitamin D levels. Researchers from the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam investigated approximately 1,300 Dutch men and women age 65 and older and found almost 50 percent were deficit in vitamin D.
Vitamin D: Believe the Hype
Getting adequate vitamin D is easy: simply remove all clothing, defy recommendations to use sunscreen, and stand outside soaking up UV rays for about 15 to 20 minutes. Poof! You've got more than enough vitamin D than you need for the day.
Seriously, the recent hype surrounding vitamin D is no joke. Why? Vitamin D has a profound impact on our health. Research suggests many of us are vitamin D deficient, which may leave us vulnerable to serious health conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and nearly 20 different forms of cancer. Many none-too-shocking factors contribute to what scientists perceive as an "epidemic" of vitamin D deficiency; our indoor-oriented lifestyles, limited sun exposure during cold-weather months, and frequent sunscreen use. Unfortunately for Chicagoans, due to the inability of UV rays to penetrate glass, we can't make enough vitamin D by sitting next to a window or by riding in our cars to get us through the winter months.
Why do we need Vitamin D? Vitamin D is well known for its role in bone and muscle strength. Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium, which is why it is usually added to milk. Lesser known to the public is the role of vitamin D in disease prevention. Research indicates vitamin D has significant anti-inflammatory effects and is critical to optimal immune function. In August of 2009, researchers at the University of Oregon published a press release stating, "the fact that this vitamin-D mediated immune response has been retained through millions of years of evolutionary selection, and is still found in species ranging from squirrel monkeys to baboons and humans, suggests that it must be critical to their survival".
Can we get vitamin D from food? While obtaining nutrients from food is generally the best route, dietary sources of substantial vitamin D are few and far between. Limited amounts of vitamin D can be found in fortified dairy products and cereals, as well as sardines, cod liver oil, salmon, and eggs yolks.
How much vitamin D do we need from supplements? Factors such as age, obesity, and skin color all influence our vitamin D requirements. Supplementing 1,000 IU of calcium D3 (cholecalciferol) is generally considered safe. The recommended upper limit for vitamin D is 2,000 IU per day. Although toxicity is rare, vitamin D is fat-soluble, therefore can be stored in the body for long periods. So before you start supplementing, consult your doctor. While you're at it, considering asking for a blood test (15-hydroxy-vitamin D) that can diagnose vitamin D deficiency.
Sun Scare: Calling Any UV Exposure a Carcinogen?
The U.S. federal government in 2000 included ultraviolet light on its list of known human carcinogens - a document it produces bi-annually to warn people about dangerous chemicals and exposure circumstances. In doing so, ultraviolet light became the first item on that list that humans also need in order to live and would die if they didn't receive. That is nothing less than confusing.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you have heard about this listing:
The criteria to be on the list does not take into consideration the dosage required for a substance to be harmful. That is the problem. According to the listing criteria: "The Report does not present quantitative assessments of carcinogenic risk. Listing of substances in the Report, therefore, does not establish that such substances present carcinogenic risks to individuals in their daily lives." In other words, the criteria to be on the U.S. government's list of carcinogens do not differentiate between sunburn and normal daily UV exposure. Purveyors of sun scare conveniently have neglected to disclose this shortfall. This exclusion makes this listing meaningless.
This report means nothing more than this: Repeated sunburn and overexposure may increase your risk of skin cancer. The list does not mean that moderate tanning in a non-burning fashion will cause skin cancer. That's because there is no research in existence to demonstrate that tanning without burning is a significant risk factor for anything.
Sunburn and overexposure are exactly what we are trying to prevent by teaching moderation and sunburn prevention.
The list does not take into account that there are positive effects of regular ultraviolet light exposure. One thing we know for certain: You would be dead today if you did not receive any ultraviolet light.
Light therapy has proven to be very beneficial in S.A.D. sufferers. However, if all you need is a little light to brighten your day, a cheaper and less extreme method might be to go to the local tanning salon for 10-15 minutes in one of their beds. Nothing like a little colour on your face and warmth in your bones to brighten your day, as well as your mood. ~Aileen Sonderup~
1.Mietkiewski E. Jedrzej Sniadecki, 1768-1838. Acta Physiol Pol. 1987 Mar-Apr;38(2):52-65.
2.Nutrition classics from The Journal of Biological Chemistry 53:293-312, 1922. Studies of experimental rickets. XXI. An experimental demonstration of the existence of a vitamin which promotes calcium depositor
3.Glerup H, Michelson K, Poulsen L, Hass E, Overbeck S, Thomsen J, Charles P, Eriksen EF. Commonly recommended daily intake of vitamin D is not sufficient if sunlight exposure is limited. J Intern Med. 2000 Feb;247(2):260-8.
4.Holick MF. Evolution and function of vitamin D. Recent Results Cancer Res. 2003;164:3-28. Review.
5.Giovannucci E. The epidemiology of vitamin D and colorectal cancer: recent findings. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2006 Jan;22(1):24-9.
6.Grimes DS, Hindle E, Dyer T. Sunlight, cholesterol and coronary heart disease. QJM. 1996 Aug;89(8):579-89.
7.Garland CF, Garland FC, Gorham ED, Lipkin M, Newmark H, Mohr SB, Holick MF. The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Prevention. Am J Public Health. 2005 Dec 27
8.Osborne JE, Hutchinson PE . Vitamin D and systemic cancer: is this relevant to malignant melanoma? Br J Dermatol. 2002 Aug;147(2):197-213. Review.
9.Grant WB, Garland CF, Holick MF. Comparisons of Estimated Economic Burdens due to Insufficient Solar Ultraviolet Irradiance and Vitamin D and Excess Solar UV Irradiance for the United States . Photochem Photobiol. 2005 Nov-Dec;81(6):1276-86.
10.Scragg R. Seasonality of cardiovascular disease mortality and the possible protective effect of ultra-violet radiation. Int J Epidemiol. 1981 Dec;10(4):337-41.
11.Zittermann A, Schleithoff SS, Koerfer R. Putting cardiovascular disease and vitamin D insufficiency into perspective. Br J Nutr. 2005 Oct;94(4):483-92. Review.
12.Med Hypotheses. 2000 Mar;54(3):475-82. Parathyroid hormone may be a cancer promoter - an explanation for the decrease in cancer risk associated with ultraviolet light, calcium, and vitamin D. 13. Kamycheva E, Sundsfjord J, Jorde R. Serum parathyroid hormone levels predict coronary heart disease: the Tromso Study. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2004 Feb;11(1):69-74.
13.Lund B, Badskjaer J, Lund B, Soerensen OH. Vitamin D and ischaemic heart disease. Horm Metab Res. 1978 Nov;10(6):553-6.
14.Scragg R, Jackson R, Holdaway IM, Lim T, Beaglehole R. Myocardial infarction is inversely associated with plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels: a community-based study. Int J Epidemiol. 1990 Sep;19(3):559-63.
15.O'Brien KO. Combined calcium and vitamin D supplementation reduces bone loss and fracture incidence in older men and women. Nutr Rev. 1998 May;56(5 Pt 1):148-50. Review.
16.Meunier P. Prevention of hip fractures by correcting calcium and vitamin D insufficiencies in elderly people. Scand J Rheumatol Suppl. 1996;103:75-8; discussion 79-80.
17.Harwood RH, Sahota O, Gaynor K, Masud T, Hosking DJ; The Nottingham Neck of Femur (NONOF) Study. A randomised, controlled comparison of different calcium and vitamin D supplementation regimens in elderly women after hip fracture: The Nottingham Neck of Femur (NONOF) Study. Age Ageing. 2004 Jan;33(1):45-51.
18.Merck Manual of Diagnosis & Therapy 17 th Edition
19.Clemens TL, Adams JS, Henderson SL, Holick MF. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1960;35(Suppl 147):132-47. Some comments on the relationship of the distribution of multiple sclerosis to latitude, solar radiation, and other variables. Cantorna MT, Mahon BD.
21.Munger KL, Zhang SM, O'Reilly E, Hernan MA, Olek MJ, Willett WC, Ascherio A. Vitamin D intake and incidence of multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2004 Jan 13;62(1):60-5.
22.Mounting evidence for vitamin D as an environmental factor affecting autoimmune disease prevalence. Exp Biol Med ( Maywood ). 2004 Dec;229(11):1136-42. Review.
23.J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1988 Aug;67(2):373-8. Influence of season and latitude on the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3: exposure to winter sunlight in Boston and Edmonton will not promote vitamin D3 synthesis in human skin.
24.Lancet. 1982 Jan 9;1(8263):74-6. Increased skin pigment reduces the capacity of skin to synthesise vitamin D3.