Should You Pause Before Applying Sunscreen?

Sunscreen has always been an essential part of summer, especially over the past 10 years as we have learned more about its benefits. It protects us from UV rays, painful sunburns, and helps prevent skin cancer. But debates have risen over whether or not sunscreen is actually detrimental to our health. While we have been taught that the sun emits powerful and dangerous UV rays, some physicians and scientists are arguing that UV rays provide vitamin D, which can assist in preventing certain cancers and bone diseases. So does this mean we should stop wearing sunscreen? You may want to hold off on throwing away your summer supply. According to vitamin D advocates, vitamin D is the new miracle worker, helping with everything from cancer to weight control to high blood pressure. One of the best ways to obtain this essential nutrient is to go outside and bask in the sun to catch some UV rays, all while leaving the skin protection behind. Some claim that Americans have been scared away from sun exposure, resulting in a greater number of people suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Other health issues that can contribute to low vitamin D include darker skin, obesity or gastrointestinal issues which can all reduce the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency in itself can be extremely painful, as it causes weak muscles, fatigue, skeletal deformities and soft bones. Although there is evidence that vitamin D is essential for bone health, it’s ability to prevent certain cancers and high blood pressure has yet to be proven. Still, some physicians are recommending that people decrease...

I Need Vitamin D, But What About Sun Damage?

How many people do you know have recently been told by their doctor: You’re low on vitamin D?  I know 5 without thinking about it too hard.  Low vitamin D levels were in the news a while back and then poo-pooed as an overreaction.   The truth is that we are hiding from the sun, between avoiding time out in the sun because we’re working too hard or playing video games.  OK, the kids, not me.  And we slather on the sunscreen, now available in SPF 110, when we go outside.  The extremes of getting a sunburn and getting absolutely no sun at all have made it very difficult to get the right amount of vitamin D. We all need vitamin D and we have to find the right balance of ways to get it.  Vitamin D is critical for immune function, for helping your body use calcium properly to avoid osteoporosis as we get older and it may also provide protection from some cancers, autoimmune diseases, and high blood pressure.  A 2009 study published by the British Journal of Nutrition even showed evidence that the vitamin D that assists with calcium absorption can help women lose weight.  So, how do you manage the juggling act: Get your vitamin D levels tested so you know where you stand. Spend some time in the sun daily.  Even 10 minutes is enough. Wear sunscreeen every day and a hat when you go outside.  Sunscreen with high SPFs will reduce your absorption of vitamin D by 90% but will also protect you from damaging UVA and UVB rays. Ensure that you diet...

Vitamin D Deficiency Addressed Again

There has been an annoyingly large amount of back and forth over whether we should be taking large amounts of vitamin D to compensate for unrecognized deficiencies of the critical mineral.  First, most of us weren’t getting enough, then we were so, don’t worry and don’t take too much.  A new study has recommended screenings, specifically of the serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, not the active levels, for specific groups that are at risk of severe vitamin D deficiencies.  These groups include the obese, those with malabsorption issues, african americans and pregnant/lactating women. The study, conducted at the Boston University School of Medicine, includes new guidelines for screenings for levels of vitamin D that should be that should be present in the blood.  Generally a level of 30 ng/mL has been considered acceptable, but the recommendation is that clinicians should aim for a target level of between 40-60 ng/mL.  Many feel that the guidelines of 400 IU daily of vitamin for children and young adults and 600 IU for adults through the age of 70 is conservative because so many people are deficient and don’t realize it.  Regardless of the current guidelines, getting tested to check your level and making sure you are getting the minimum couldn’t hurt.  Obviously, the medical community is still battling this one out and we still don’t have a clear answer.  Until they figure it out, don’t sit around and assume you’re OK.  You’re the one who cares the most about your health so it’s up to you to be sure you’re getting the nutrients you need. Written by...

Dietary Supplement Use is On the Rise: Are They Worth It?

With all of the reports in the news about vitamin D deficiency, the importance of calcium, B12, and many other vitamins and minerals, Americans are ingesting vitamin supplements like candy.  These supplements aren’t cheap and the research is unclear about the benefits.  But we’re taking them anyway.  A new study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics stated that the percentage of adults taking supplements rose from 42% in 1988-1994 to 50% in 2003-2006.  The largest increase was for calcium.  The number of women aged 60 and over who take calcium supplements increased from 28% to 61%.  Interestingly, the number of women who can get pregnant and who take folic acid, which is known to prevent neural tube defects, remained constant. Calcium and folic acid have been proven to prevent disease, but there is a lot of controversy about other vitamins, especially vitamin D.  MicroNutrient tests can provide information about whether you are absorbing enough of specific nutrients based on recommended intake numbers from the FDA.  The real question is whether the numbers that are provided by the FDA provide enough of the necessary nutrients.  Controversery over how critical vitamin D is to overall health and disease prevention may have limited the number of people who would reach for a vitamin D supplement.  Currently, the FDA does not support megadoses of vitamin D and in fact, there may be research to support a claim that too much vitamin D can cause health problems.  It is important to know whether you are getting the right amount of key minerals and vitamins, but don’t go overboard until there is solid research to support it. Written by...

Maybe More Isn’t Better: New Information on Vitamin D

Have you started taking vitamin D supplements based on research that it is a cure-all?  Studies indicated that if you didn’t get lots of it you would not only have weak bones and develop osteporosis but contract a host of other health problems including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, severe asthma, and an increased risk of cancer, specifically of the breast, colon, prostate and pancreas.  Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to Type 2 Diabetes and autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.   A new report released this week by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) states that there is not enough evidence to support this long list of illnesses. The report, which reviewed over 1,000 previous studies, concludes that the only definitive benefit of calcium and vitamin D is bone health and that the new levels the IOM developed will provide enough of the nutrients to do that.  The IOM indicated that although these health problems may be related and should be researched, the evidence that exists regarding the side effects of too much vitamin D doesn’t outweigh potential benefits.  Just as studies in the past found that hormone replacement therapy caused serious negative side effects, the report “challenges the notion that ‘more is better’ “.  The new RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) for vitamin D for adults 18-50 is 600 IU and for adults over 50 it is 800 IU.  Levels in the blood are measured in nanograms per milileter and acceptable levels for most people are defined as 20ng and 30ng. Recent studies touting the benefits of megadoses of vitamin D had claimed that adults should have levels  over 30 nanograms per milileter to reap the full benefits of the vitamin.  However, the upper...