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Reasons People Get Less Sun
- Air conditioning – to avoid the hot sun
- Air conditioning disease is the result of less vitamin D – China (March, 2011).
- Increased use of multi-media indoors – TV, DVD, video games, and internet access
- Teens increasingly indoors – especially dark skinned children
- Problems of increased TV watching by toddlers (May, 2010).
- Analysis of the time people spend outdoors (December, 2010).
- More indoor jobs – more office workers, fewer farmers
- Indoor jobs cities around the world: 30% in 1950, 70% in 2050
- Urban residents had 2X less vitamin D – 2008
- More people living in cities – where there is less Ultra Violet light (UV)
- Air pollution reduces UV and thus vitamin D
- UVB, which produces vitamin D, does not reflect off of buildings very well
- People want whiter skin, especially women
- May not burn from the sun if have enough vitamin D
- Fear of skin cancer
- Actually you can get enough vitamin D without getting much of a tan, much less get skin cancer
- Most sunscreens increase the growth of skin cancer
- Actually you get 1000X more cancer by not having the vitamin D
- Less cholesterol – skin needs to produce vitamin D
- Overview of Cholesterol and Vitamin D
- Vitamin D bioavailability is associated with cholesterol (January 2011).
- Eating less cholesterol is harmless other than it reduces vitamin D (June 2011).
- More Obesity
- Obese people need more vitamin D (2000)
- Map of BMI increase (February 2011).
- Obese people spend less time in the sun
- Livers of those who are Obese do not function as well, and so do not provide as much vitamin D
- More soft drinks – uses up Calcium And vitamin D
- Surfers in Hawaii who drank large amount of cola soft drink had low levels of vitamin D
- Too much fructose reduced both serum and active vitamin D in rats (April 2013).
- HFCS consumes Magnesium needed by Vitamin D
- Meat from factory farms – has far less vitamin D than from free-range farms
- Eggs, chickens, sheep, pigs (500 IU/teaspoon of lard), farmed salmon has 4X less vitamin D than wild salmon
- Wild game, which has been outdoors all of the time, has much more vitamin D – especially in the organ meats
- Eating less fatty meat in an attempt to reduce cholesterol.
- Fatty meat was discovered to have a liver-activated form of vitamin D in 2014
- More drugs which consume or block vitamin D
- Antiseizure, Prednisone, AIDS drugs, Orlistat, Questran, Dilantin, Phenobarbital, Rifampin, Steroids, Calcium channel blockers
- Cholestyramine, Mineral Oil, St Johns wort
- Use of polyunsaturated fats decreased bio-availablity of vitamin D
- More windows
- UVA from windows appears to destroy vitamin D
- UVB (the one we need) is blocked by windows
- More wall space devoted to windows in homes, offices, and public buildings
- Increased salt consumption, which decreases Magnesium and Calcium
- Fluoridated water decreases Magnesium – less vitamin D
- Strong magnetic fields reduce vitamin D levels, perhaps from MRI
- PCBs increase the chance of deficiency by 3%
- Roundup (glyphosate) and it’s metabolites decrease vitamin D
- Flame Retardants also retard active vitamin D
- Flame Retardants were added to US clothing, mattresses, and cushions by 1980
- Doubt that flame retardants are used in developing countries
- Have a condition which Consumes vitamin D
- Chemotherapy – (be careful, adding vitamin D increases the impact of some Chemo)
- MS prevented AND treated by vitamin D, a mountain of evidence
- Less liver eaten – which used to have large amounts of vitamin D
Get 40X more vitamin D from grass-fed beef liver
- Less Magnesium in foods – Magnesium is needed to utilize vitamin D (as well as build bones)
- Magnesium and vitamin D deficiencies
- Magnesium deficiency epidemic is similar to the Vitamin D epidemic
- Reasons: use of artificial fertilizers, refining grains removes almost all of their Magnesium
- More seniors
- Seniors get 4X less vitamin D from the sun than youths (less Cholesterol in skin) *
- Seniors tend to be outdoors less – get sick – vicious cycle
- Seniors do not activate vitamin D as well (in liver, kidney, skin, etc)
- More cataract surgery – leads to avoiding bright light
- Excessive clothing (burka, nun habit, . . .) Worse farther from equator
- Have a condition which prevents Adsorption in the gut
- Bariatric Surgery, Colon Cancer, IBD UC and CD, Crohn’s
- Gluten Intolerance, Celiac Disease, Cystic Fibrosis
- Fat malabsorption syndromes from 1985
- Have a condition which prevents conversion to active vitamin D
- Kidney vicious cycle
- HIV both prevents conversion and consumes vitamin D
- Have a condition which requires more vitamin D – or time in the sun
- Pregnancy- Need more vitamin D – Before , During, and After
- Dark Skinned people need more sun to absorb vitamin D
- Surgery and trauma
- Lactose Intolerance or Vegan
- Vitamin D in US milk wrong (Vitamin D2)
- Reduces Calcium intake, needed to build bones, prevent Myopia, prevent cardiovascular disease
- Health reasons to avoid sun (other than skin cancer) burn easily – redhead, etc – there are alternatives
- If avoiding sun you need to supplement with vitamin D
- Work long hours or night shift. Long hours reduced vitamin D by 8%
- Live far from equator even more of a problem if the region is also cloudy (Washington State, Scotland)
- 10X more SAD in Seattle than Miami
- DDT and some other pesticides in our bodies reduce the vitamin D perhaps 3ng
- Smoking reduces Calcium, which reduces vitamin D
What to Do?
What it boils down to is that the sun is not just good for us, it is vital to our survival and good health. For example, in one study, 38,472 women selected in 1991-1992, aged 30-49 were monitored for 15 years. Looking at the frequency of sunbathing vacations and sunburn, the researchers found that increased sunburn frequency was associated with reduced all-cause mortality! Sunbathing vacations more than once a year also reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. Finally in another study involving 16,500 people, researchers looked at weather statistics and found a 60% increased risk of stroke for those with the lowest sun exposure.
Steps You Can Take To Get More Sun
- Get regular sun and learn how to monitor your vitamin D3 levels.
In general burning is a bad idea as it can lead to skin cancer. There are many other variables to take into consideration when sunbathing. One is skin type.
According to the Vitamin D Council Parameters of Vitamin D3 Sulfate
|Skin Type||Skin color||Skin characteristics|
|I||White; very fair; red or blond hair; blue eyes; freckles||Always burns, never tans|
|II||White; fair; red or blond hair; blue, hazel, or green eyes||Usually burns, tans with difficulty|
|III||Cream white; fair; with any eye or hair color; very common||Sometimes mild burn, gradually tans|
|IV||Brown; typical Mediterranean Caucasian skin||Rarely burns, tans with ease|
|V||Dark Brown; mid-eastern skin types||Very rarely burns, tans very easily|
|VI||Black||Never burns, tans very easily|
There are other factors as well, which can affect the amount of vitamin D your body makes from exposure to the sun. These are:
- The amount of skin you expose. The more skin you expose, the more vitamin D you can produce.
- How old you are. As you get older, your skin has a harder time producing vitamin D.
- Whether you’re wearing sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks a lot of vitamin D production and it has also been implicated in skin cancer.
- The altitude you’re at. The sun is more intense on top of a mountain than at the beach. This means you make more vitamin D the higher up you are (at higher altitudes).
- Whether it is cloudy. Less UVB reaches your skin on a cloudy day and your skin makes less vitamin D.
- Air pollution. Polluted air soaks up UVB or reflects it back into space. This means that if you live somewhere where there is lots of pollution, your skin makes less vitamin D.
- Being behind glass. Glass blocks all UVB, so you can’t make vitamin D if you’re in sunlight, but behind glass. In fact, light coming through glass has been shown to be more cancerous.
Given all of the variables, it can get complicated. For example:
- At noon in Miami, an individual with skin type III would probably need about 6 minutes of exposure to the sun to make 1,000 IU of vitamin D in summer and 15 minutes in winter.
- Someone with skin type V would probably need around 15 minutes in summer and 30 minutes in winter.
- At noon in Boston during summer, an individual with skin type III would probably need about 1 hour of exposure to the sun to make 1,000 IU of vitamin D.
- Someone with skin type V would probably need about 2 hours of exposure.
- During the winter months in Boston, it’s not possible for anyone to make vitamin D from the sun, no matter their skin ty
Amount of Sunlight for People of Color
Did You Know?
We all started out at the equator and had dark skin. The farther away we got from the equator, the lighter our skin became and the less melanin we needed to protect against the potentially burnng rays of UVB. Today, in the U.S. people of color have significantly higher rates of cancer (although the rates dropped for cancer in 2013 among African Americans) heart disease and obesity.
If you are a person of color, the research says you will need up to 5 times more exposure as the melanin in your skin “protects” you from the sun.
“In a startling 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that African-Americans have a much higher incidence of heart failure than other races, and it develops at younger ages. Before age 50, African-Americans’ heart failure rate is 20 times higher than that of whites, according to the study. Four risk factors are the strongest predictors of heart failure: high blood pressure (also called hypertension), chronic kidney disease, being overweight, and having low levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Three-fourths of African-Americans who develop heart failure have high blood pressure by age 40.”
When it comes to cancer, the picture is not much better.
“Despite……. declines….. death rates for all cancers combined remain 33% higher in black men and 16% higher in black women, compared to white men and women. African American men also have higher death rates for most of the major cancer sites (including lung, prostate, colon/rectum, liver, pancreas, and others). Notably, the higher overall cancer death rate in African American women compared to white women occurs despite lower incidence rates for all cancers combined and for breast and lung cancer.
Just recently, the new data have emerged showing that African Americans have the highest rate of obesity.
- African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.
- In 2011, African Americans were 1.5 times as likely to be obese as Non- Hispanic Whites.
- In 2011, African American women were 80% more likely to be obese than Non-Hispanic White women.
- In 2007-2010, African American girls were 80% more likely to be overweight than Non-Hispanic White girls.
While rates are climbing for the population at large for all of these diseases, the fact that they are climbing faster among people of color is another important data point reinforcing the importance of sunshine as a means of prevention. Research is needed to determine whether there are differences in incidence among people of color in other parts of the world, i.e. does the incidence go down for them in warmer climbs.
- Get the app DMinder. It works out all of the details using our location and time of year/day and weather conditions. You program it with supplements, amount of time and time of day you are in the sun and it keeps a running tally of your level of vitamin D3.
- Take vacations that involve the sun. Go camping, zip-lining, canoeing, or skiing
- Take up a sport that is played outdoors. Tennis, golf, bike riding or roller blading are all good for you as they are low impact and/or high intensity interval (HIIT) types of activities and they can be done outdoors
- Get up with the sun – or as early as possible. Your body produces more melatonin if you get early morning sunlight. The more melatonin the better you sleep at night.
- Limit the time you spend using electronics. Read don’t watch – fall asleep with a book and not the TV. Write don’t text. When was the last time you actually wrote a letter to someone. It is amazingly gratifying. If you are addicted to surfing the net, set a limit, using an alarm (ok the one on your phone) and stick to it.
- Volunteer for Habitat or community activities that take place outdoors. There is something about working with a group of people and being outdoors that is so inspiring.
- If you work 3rd shift, consider changing shifts. It is that bad for you. Change jobs if changing shifts is not an option. Really, it is that bad for your health.
- If you live in the city, get out of it every chance you get. City dwellers get less sun.
10. Get your vitamin D3 levels checked regularly.
- Invest in a UVB lamp. I have a UVB lamp that appears to provide significantly more vitamin D3 in a much shorter period of time than being in the sun even under optimal conditions.
Standing about 14 inches from the light bulbs, according to the meter, I can obtain 500 I.U. of vitamin D3 in 1 minute. I am currently using the lamp on 9 locations; front and back of lower legs; front, back and sides of thighs; front, back and sides of torso. I do not expose my face or neck. I get about 5,000 I.U. in about 10 minutes.
When I lay in the sun, I expose the front and back of my entire body in a bathing suit for half an hour to an hour. I am getting about 7,000 to 10,000 according to my DMinder. I also garden and do so with arms and legs exposed but this is usually early morning or dusk when the UVB radiation is at it’s lowest.
Does Supplementation of Vitamin D3 Work?
It is not clear if supplementation works. One study showed that the problems associated with vitamin D3 deficiency do not improve even if the serum levels of vitamin D3 go up with supplementation. (citation) This make sense, as we will see in chapter _, in that the supplemented D3 never becomes sulfated. It is the sulfur that appears to have all of the health benefits, for the cholesterol and the vitamin D3. I have concluded that I need all three, the sun, the UVB lamp and the supplement along with foods rich in vitamin D3 and cholesterol.
Vitamin D3 Toxicity
Another question is whether or not you can take too much vitamin D3. Toxicity is more likely to occur if the dose goes over 10,000 I.U. according to most authorities. The guidelines are still being revised by many agencies in view of the epidemic of vitamin D3 deficiencies.
Another problem when it comes to supplementing is vitamin D2. It can actually be harmful as it blocks the absorption of vitamin D3. Please do not take it as a supplement. Note that it is vitamin D2 that is put into fortified milk, fortified cheese, fortified cereal…., well everything that has been fortified basically.
There are some people who should not even take vitamin D3 supplements.
Here are the recommendations from some organizations in the United States on how much vitamin D3 to take:
Recommended daily intakes from various organizations:
|Vitamin D Council||Endocrine Society||Food and Nutrition Board|
|Infants||1,000 IU/day||400-1,000 IU/day||400 IU/day|
|Children||1,000 IU/day per 25lbs of body weight||600-1,000 IU/day||600 IU/day|
|Adults||5,000 IU/day||1,500-2,000 IU/day||600 IU/day, 800 IU/day for seniors|
Not only is the sun good for us as long as we do not burn the skin, it is a life-saver. We will also see how the foods that have been kissed by the sun heal the body, block or prevent disease and sustain us well into old age.
 Yang et al. (2011). Ultraviolet exposure and mortality among women in Sweden. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 20(4):683-690.
 Mozes,A. (2012). Health Day. RSS Feed.
 DeSantis, C. (2013). Cancer statistics about African Americans released. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from //www.cancer.org/cancer/news/expertvoices/post/2013/02/04/cancer-statistics-about-african-americans-released.aspx
Dr. J. Renae Norton is a clinical psychologist, specializing in the outpatient treatment of obesity and eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, bulimarexia, and binge eating disorder (BED) and the Director of The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the Director of The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship. This information is not necessarily the position of Dr. J. Renae Norton or The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity.
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