Sunscreen may cause vitamin D deficiency, says study

Posted at 4:55 PM, May 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-12 16:55:11-04

With skin cancer being the most common form of cancer for Americans, it makes sense to wear sunscreen all the time to protect yourself against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. 

But does sunscreen prevent your body from getting enough of the essential nutrient vitamin D?  

Results from a study at Touro University California found sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher can reduce the body’s vitamin D-3 production by 99 percent.

After researchers reviewed clinical studies, the scientists suggest that sunscreen use may contribute to insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels of nearly 1 billion people worldwide.

Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when sunlight hits our bare skin. But when we slather on sunscreen, it blocks the UVB rays and prevents our bodies from making it. 

We all need vitamin D for bone growth, to absorb calcium, and for a healthy immune system. Vitamin D may also reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke and autoimmune diseases.

Too little Vitamin D can lead to bone fractures, weak muscles and rickets in children which is a softening of the bones.

The research team recommends spending time in the midday sun twice a week between 5 and 30 minutes each time. With no sunscreen. 

To help you get more vitamin D, here are my prescriptions:

  • Take short walks around your neighborhood with your arms and legs exposed with no sunscreen applied.  Just be sure to pay attention to how long you’re in the sun.
  • Add fatty fish to your weekly meals. Excellent vitamin D sources include salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and cod liver oil.
  • You can also get lower vitamin D amounts from fortified foods like milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals.  Be sure to read the labels to confirm they’re fortified before buying.
  • Supplements are an effective way to boost Vitamin D.  But be sure to talk with your doctor first because your body cannot protect against excess vitamin D from supplements.  And too much can cause side effects.

The sun is a great way to get vitamin D, but you need to be very cautious when heading outdoors without sunscreen. 

Pale skin makes Vitamin D faster than darker skin tones and the more skin exposed, the more Vitamin D that is produced. 

Remember, you only need moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure to boost your vitamin D levels.