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Questions and Answers on Vitamin D
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Jan 21, 2011
What follows are answers to three of the most common questions that I received in response to my post on How to Make Sure that You Are Getting Enough Vitamin D for Your Best Health
Q. Won't regularly getting sunlight on my skin increase my risk of melanoma?
A. Responsible exposure to sunlight - getting about 25 to 50% of your minimal erythemal dose, as described in the post cited above - shouldn't increase your risk of experiencing melanoma.
Getting sunburned is definitely a risk factor for melanoma. More specifically, the number of sunburns experienced before turning 30 years of age is strongly correlated with risk of developing melanoma.
But as long as you're responsible about your exposure to sunlight and you avoid getting sunburned, getting sunlight on your skin to manufacture vitamin D and related photo products should not be detrimental to your health.
In fact, studies by Dr. Frank Garland and Dr. Cedric Garland indicate that people who work outdoors have lower incidence rates of melanoma than people who work indoors for a living.
Dr. Michael Holick points out that "despite the fact that the United States was for several centuries a rural, agricultural-based nation whose citizens were outdoors much of the time, melanoma was so rare that separate statistics weren't kept on the disease until the 1950s."
I'll be sure to discuss melanoma in more detail in a future post.
Q. I live up north. There are some days in January and February when I can open my window and sit right under the sun and get a bit of a tan. Is my body making vitamin D when I do this?
A. If you live above 35 degrees latitude north or below 35 degrees latitude south, then during the winter months, the angle of the sun's rays are such that UV-B rays won't reach you.
So the answer is no, even if you feel warmth on your skin from the sun's rays through an open window on a winter day, your body won't generate vitamin D if you live 35 degrees above or below the equator.
During winter months in these locations, your body must rely on stores of vitamin D that were produced during warmer months and/or on vitamin D that you get through your diet.
The two supplemental options that we use for different circumstances are:
Of these two options, my strong preference is our 100% whole food tablet version of vitamin D-3, which comes with a variety of natural elements - like organic beets, carrots, parsley, broccoli, CoQ10, and a variety of enzymes and amino acids - to support optimal immune system strength.
Q. Can using a tanning booth give you the UV-B that you need to produce vitamin D through the skin?
A. Yes, but there are a number of variables at play with tanning beds - mainly having to do with hygiene and excessive exposure to radiation without knowing about it - for me to feel that it's better for most people to rely on a combination of natural sunlight and supplementation with whole food sources of vitamin D-3.
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