We Are Sunshine

HEADLINE STORY: Here’s Why Vitamin D has Become So Important

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Vitamin D production is one of the benefits that has been associated with human exposure to ultraviolet-B (UVB) emitted in sunlight and by an estimated 90 percent of commercial indoor tanning equipment. While the North American indoor tanning community conducts indoor tanning as a cosmetic service, an undeniable physiological side-effect of this service is that indoor tanning enthusiasts manufacture sufficient levels of vitamin D as a result of indoor tanning sessions.

2009-04-10-the-d-story-copy.jpgIndoor tanners have 90 percent higher vitamin D levels as compared to the general population, according to Boston University research.

Because there is mounting evidence that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in North American society (75 percent of Americans and up to 97 percent of Canadians and more than 1 billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient at some point in the year), and because society spends more time indoors away from sunlight today than at any point in human history, compromising the body’s natural and intended vitamin D pathway, the vitamin D-related side-effect from cosmetic tanning deserves due consideration.

Breakthrough research in the past two years on the positive effects vitamin D, most naturally, reliably and efficiently derived from sun exposure, has totally changed what can and should be said about ultraviolet light exposure — a development that fully supports the practical and responsible positions promoted by the professional indoor tanning industry for more than a decade. Consider:

  1. Regular exposure to sunlight is the body’s natural, intended and by far most efficient and reliable source of vitamin D. (Vitamin D is actually a hormone — it is the only “vitamin” that humans produce naturally without dietary supplementation.) Humans get an estimated 90 percent of their vitamin D from exposure to ultraviolet light in sunshine — UVB light, in particular.
  2. Hundreds of clinical and observational studies, including random-controlled clinical trials — the gold standard of scientific research — have unlocked a new understanding about vitamin D. We now know that “the sunshine vitamin” not only is critical for bone health, but also regulates normal cell growth throughout the entire body. This recently unlocked mechanism explains why healthy vitamin D levels are associated with significantly lower risks of most forms of cancer, as well as heart disease, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases.
  3. It is now universally recognized in the vitamin D research community that current daily vitamin D recommendations — established in the early 1900s solely to eradicate the bone disorder rickets and ranging from 200-600 international units (IU) daily — are woefully inadequate.

In light of overwhelming research linking vitamin D with lower cancer and other disease risks, many vitamin D experts now recommend 1,000 to 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily. But because daily vitamin D intake/production is only a precursor to maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in the bloodstream, the Vitamin D Council, a leading vitamin D advocacy group, now recommends target vitamin D blood levels of 50 nanograms/milliliter (ng/mL) or 125 nanomoles/liter (nm/L).

That’s the key: The higher vitamin D levels now being recommended by vitamin D experts and other public health groups are only naturally consistent with vitamin D levels one would receive by getting regular exposure to UVB in sunlight. As Vitamin D expert Dr. Reinhold Vieth says, “For most vitamins, dietary intakes offer a reasonable reference point for how much people might be need. For Vitamin D, we cannot use dietary intake as a guide, because except for fish, our diets do not provide enough to prevent rickets or osteomalacia. We must take a unique approach to determine a Vitamin D requirement. We need to return to an earlier concept, and think of Vitamin D as ‘the sunshine vitamin.'”