Lawrence Jaeger is an outstanding Medical Dermatologist and has treated many patients suffering from Vitamin D deficiency.
According to Doctor Larry Jaeger, Vitamin D is an important chemical in the body that helps transport calcium from digested food in the stomach to the blood stream, so it can keep bones strong. There are two ways the body gets vitamin D:
Exposure to UV radiation
Ingesting foods or supplements that contain vitamin D
For years, some people have argued that it’s better for your overall health to get vitamin D from exposure to the sun or a tanning bed, instead of wearing sunscreen and limiting sun exposure. You can find out more about this controversy and why it is not healthy to get
vitamin D from sun exposure or tanning
If you don’t get your vitamin D from UV rays, though, how do you get it? Is it better to eat food with vitamin D or take supplements? How much vitamin D do you need and can you get too much?
The controversy about vitamin D and sunscreen has been a source of argument for many years. The basic question is, “Which is more important?”
Wearing sunscreen and limiting sun exposure to prevent skin cancer
Getting the beneficial effects of vitamin D by tanning
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D’s main purpose is to keep normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the bloodstream. Calcium needs vitamin D to help transport it from digested food in the stomach and small intestines to the bloodstream.
In the body calcium keeps bones strong. There is also some research that suggests that vitamin D may help prevent osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer, and some immune-system diseases. There are two forms of vitamin D that are important in humans:
Vitamin D2: Ergocalciferol, which comes from plants
Vitamin D3: Cholecalciferol, which comes from exposure to UV radiation and certain foods
“The Vitamin D from Tanning” Argument
There are people who say it’s OK to tan in tanning beds or even be out in the sun without wearing sunscreen because that UV exposure produces vitamin D with all of its beneficial effects.
The Problem With the “Vitamin D from Tanning” Argument
There are many reasons why this argument is incorrect.
Skin Cancer is Bad: The number of new skin cancer diagnoses is rising so rapidly it’s considered an epidemic. More than 1 million people will be diagnosed with a new skin cancer this year. Out of all the skin cancers, melanoma is the most dangerous, and one person dies from melanoma almost every hour in the United States.
UV Radiation Causes Skin Cancer: Good scientific studies show that exposure to UV radiation causes skin cancer. In addition, that exposure also causes photoaging. Not only can exposure to UV radiation kill you, it can make you look bad too.
Dietary Vitamin D Works: Once vitamin D is in the body it has to be processed by the liver and the kidneys into a usable form. Whether the source is dietary or sun exposure, once vitamin D is processed, the effect is the same. In other words, your body doesn’t know whether the vitamin D it’s using came from the sun or your diet.
Vitamin D May Not Prevent Cancer: While there are some studies that suggest vitamin D may help prevent certain cancers, well-designed scientific studies have not confirmed this.
Sources of Dietary Vitamin D
You can get vitamin D from a variety of sources. Foods such as salmon, sardines, shiitake mushrooms, and egg yolks naturally contain vitamin D. Some foods like milk, orange juice, yogurts, and cheeses can be fortified to increase their vitamin D content. Finally, there are prescription and over-the-counter vitamin D supplements that come in capsules and liquids.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
The FDA’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is:
200 IU per day for children and adults <50 years old
400 IU per day for adults >50 years old
600 – 800 IU per day for the elderly >70 years old
How Much Vitamin D Do You Really Need?
Most scientists and nutritionists believe that the doses in the RDA are not high enough. Furthermore, good studies show that up to 10 times the recommended daily allowance is safe.
Most experts agree that children and adults who stay out of the sun require 800 to 1000 IU daily.
Dr. Larry Jaeger is the medical director of Advanced Dermatology of New York. and specializes in the area of Medical, Cosmetic and Surgical Dermatology.