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Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin!

Tanning indoors compared to in the sun

Benefits in exposure to sunlight (UVA and UVB) in the winter

Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin!

Source: Real Magazine, Vol. 1 Iss. 1

Hello, sunshine!

For the first time in years, scientists are coming out from behind the clouds and giving us some good news about sunlight - in the form of vitamin D. What they want you to know is this: healthy vitamin D levels are being associated with lower risks of several forms of cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases. And how do you get more vitamin D? From sunlight.

The Sunshine Vitamin

It all centers on vitamin D – a nutrient that is aptly named “the sunshine vitamin”. Scientists have known for decades that vitamin D helps the body process calcium to create strong bones – it’s the reason your mom wouldn’t excuse you from the dinner table before you finished your milk.

But guess what? We know now that a glass of milk simply isn’t enough to provide vitamin D levels. We need sunlight for vitamin D. But getting any type of sunlight is contrary to what you’ve heard, right? Of course it is. Every spring break, magazines and TV bombard you with messages: Sunlight = bad. Sunscreens, big floppy hats, jeans, and long sleeves = good.

Well, maybe not. Getting too little vitamin D may well be worse for you than getting too much sun.

Got Vitamin D?

Our current vitamin D intake recommendations were developed back in the day – more than a century ago – to prevent rickets (a childhood disorder that softens and weakens the bones, caused primarily by lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate). Current recommendations are based on the amount of vitamin D in one teaspoon of cod liver oil, which was a common treatment at the time. Fortunately, rickets is rare in the United States today (and fortunately cod liver oil went with it).

Unfortunately, however, because vitamin D research was virtually nonexistent for nearly half a century, we’ve been depending on old science when it comes to how much vitamin D our bodies need. Why? Vitamin D is a relatively cheap pharmaceutical item – and totally free when developed naturally from sunlight. Consequently, nobody had any serious financial stake in vitamin D, so interest in research almost completely dried up. Almost. But not totally – thankfully.

In the spring of 2006, members of the growing worldwide vitamin D research community announced new findings about vitamin D. Armed with hundreds of studies and papers written in the past decade, vitamin D advocates took center stage and shined new light on some old myths about the sunshine vitamin:

The Myth: PHYSICAL LOCATION DOESN’T AFFECT VITAMIN D LEVELS. The Reality: Most Canadians and Americans living north of Atlanta are either vitamin D deficient or are at risk for vitamin D deficiency, because of the northerly latitudes and relatively weak sun exposure.

The Myth: YOU NEED 200-400 INTERNATIONAL UNITS (IU) OF VITAMIN D DAILY. The Reality: The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for Americans and Canadians is woefully inadequate. The most aggressive researchers are pushing for levels from 1,000 IU to 10,000 IU – more consistent with levels one would receive naturally be exposing skin to sunlight.

The Myth: WE KNOW HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH. The Reality: Old concerns about vitamin D toxicity associated with higher levels of supplementation may be wildly overstated – a finding that, if validated, would pave the way for higher supplementation recommendations.

The Myth: YOU CAN GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D THROUGH DIET AND SUPPLEMENTS. The Reality: At higher levels, it may be impossible to achieve proper vitamin D fortification through diet and supplements alone – a possibility suggested by both vitamin D researchers and dietary science specialists. It’s necessary for public health officials to recognize that sensitive sun exposure has to be part of the equation or the public risks vitamin D deficiency.

The Myth: PEOPLE ONLY NEED 5-10 MINUTES OF SUN EXPOSURE TO THEIR HANDS AND ARMS TO MAKE VITAMIN D. The Reality: For a fair-skinned individual it may take 10-15 minutes of full-body sun exposure to make sufficient vitamin D, and that time period may increase up to 10-fold for a person with dark skin, whose skin naturally filters sunlight.

Vitamin D and Cancer

Vitamin D increasingly seems important for preventing and even treating many types of cancer. Vitamin D pioneer Dr. Michael Holick, who wrote The UV Advantage and has published a few hundred academic papers in his 35-year vitamin D career, has long argued that the public message about sunshine needs to come back to center – back to intelligent moderation.

So says University of California-San Diego vitamin D research duo Dr. Cedric F. and Dr. Frank C. Garland – brothers who bravely proclaimed in the 1980s that sun exposure, which produces vitamin D naturally in humans, appeared to prevent colon cancer.

The Garlands penned a landmark paper with 226 separate research citations in the February 2006 American Journal of Public Health. The Garlands reviewed a total of 63 observational studies that have examined the role vitamin D might play in protecting against colon, breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers. The review revealed the following:

Colon Cancer: 20 of 30 studies conducted to date have found a statistically significant benefit of vitamin D or sun exposure on cancer risk or mortality. Five more studies found a positive connection of borderline significance.

Breast Cancer: Of 13 studies conducted, nine reported a favorable association of vitamin D or sunlight exposure on cancer risk.

Prostate Cancer: Of 26 studies ever conducted, 13 found a statistically significant association of vitamin D or sunlight exposure on cancer risk.

Ovarian Cancer: Five of seven studies found higher mortality associated with lower regional sunlight or lower vitamin D intake.

In all, 71 percent of the studies (46 out of 76) found that vitamin D had a positive effect in preventing colon, breast, prostate, or ovarian cancers. And of that group, 62 percent of the studies showed a significant positive connection.

Vitamin D and You

More research is needed to solidify all of these findings, but it seems clear that it’s time to take a new look at vitamin D and how we get it.

The quandary is this: Ultraviolet light rays from the sun trigger vitamin D synthesis in skin. But sunscreen blocks its production, and dermatologists and health agencies have long preached that such lotions are needed to prevent skin cancer.

It’s all about moderation.

“Tanned skin protects you against sunburn,” says Holick. “If you avoid getting sunburned, the benefits of moderate sun exposure will far outweigh the possible dangers.”

One things for certain: Vitamin D is back in the sunlight.

Tanning indoors compared to in the sun

Question: I have been told that 20 minutes in a tanning bed is the same as 1 hour and 15 minutes of sunlight during the hottest part of the day - is that accurate?

Answer: Thanks for a great question. You could say that both put out UVA and UVB rays as well as heat and visible light. (The sun also puts out UVC which should be filtered from reaching earth by our atmosphere, ie. ozone.). That's where the comparison ends. The best comparison for your purpose is in control. 20 minutes today in a given tanning bed should be the same as 20 minutes tomorrow in the same bed, same bulbs etc. Many factors vary our outdoor experiences, like water, snow, sand, cloud, haze, breeze, time of day, latitude etc.; will you be out in the sun for the exact same length of time as yesterday?

Remember that people who pre-tan indoors are 81% less likely to burn outdoors. Count the huge number of people who burn in the sun as opposed  to the miniscule few in a tanning bed. Control - don't ever burn. Call us, we're here to help, that's what we do.

Benefits in exposure to sunlight (UVA and UVB) in the winter
Question: Are there benefits in exposure to sunlight (UVA and UVB) in the winter?

Answer: You can find helpful information in the following non-profit web sites:



Also, in the most recent BC Health Guide Book, see page 173 paragraph 1.

The bulbs we use at Hawaiian Beach Tanning Salon operate in the UVA and UVB spectrum. Our motto is "Tan in moderation - never burn". Ask us about a base tan prior to going on holiday. We are here to help - that's what we do


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