Too much sunscreen 'can hit vitamin D levels'

03 May 2017 08:25

Sunscreen can impact vitamin D levels

Sunscreen can impact vitamin D levels

Holidaymakers have been warned of the negative consequences that wearing too much sunscreen could have for their vitamin D levels.

Along with things like travel insurance, sunscreen is vital for those heading to hot climates on foreign trips.

But new research indicates that wearing too much could have its drawbacks.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, suggests that close to a billion people worldwide might have deficient or insufficient vitamin D in their bodies as a result of chronic diseases and insufficient sun exposure linked to sunscreen use.

Finding the right balance

Exposure to sunlight can help boost people's vitamin D levels. However, prolonged exposure also heightens the risk of skin cancer - something which causes many to cover themselves in sunscreen.

Explaining this issue, Kim Pfotenhauer, assistant professor at Touro University, who contributed to the new study, said: "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.

"While we want people to protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D."

Health problems

Those who are deficient in vitamin D may have to contend with bone fractures and weaknesses in their muscles.

Along with a lack of sunlight, malabsorption of the vitamin may be caused by conditions such as Crohn's and coeliac disease. A poor diet can also create problems.

While sunscreen can protect people from dangerous burning, Dr Pfotenhauer said they can top up their vitamin D levels by simply going for a short walk with their arms and legs exposed.

The Osteopathic Association now suggests that spending between five minutes and half an hour in the midday sun twice a week might be enough to boost people's vitamin D intake.

But in order to reap the benefits, people might have to avoid using sunscreen temporarily, as "SPF 15 or greater decreases vitamin D3 production by 99%".

 

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