Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vitamin D Facts and Sun

Don't Seek the Sun: Top Reasons to Get Vitamin D From Your Diet

Our bodies need vitamin D to build and maintain strong and healthy bodies. Without vitamin D, the body cannot use calcium and phosphorus, two minerals that are necessary for healthy bones.1 The American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) does not recommend getting vitamin D from sun exposure (natural) or indoor tanning (artificial) because ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and tanning beds can lead to the development of skin cancer. Getting vitamin D from a healthy diet, which includes naturally enriched vitamin D foods, fortified foods and beverages, and/or vitamin supplements, and practicing sun protection offer healthier alternatives. Still skeptical? Consider these scientific facts:

1. Substantially more than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year.2 The benefits of vitamin D to bone health are well known, but it also is well known that overexposure to UV radiation can cause skin cancer.2

2. UV rays can cause premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. There is significant scientific evidence to support this fact, which is why the International Agency of Research on Cancer classifies UV radiation from the sun and tanning devices as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). UV exposure also can lead to cataracts and suppressed immune responses.3

3. The number of diagnosed cases of skin cancer continues to increase. Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during his or her lifetime.4

4. One person dies from melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, almost every hour in the United States.2 Melanoma is the No. 1 cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second-most-common cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.5 At current rates, a person has a one in 58 chance of developing melanoma during his or her lifetime.6

5. Dietary sources of vitamin D do not prematurely age the skin or increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Dietary sources (fortified foods, beverages, and vitamin supplements) are available year-round. Good sources include fortified milk, cheeses and yogurt, fortified cereal, and oily fish like salmon and tuna.1 Research shows that vitamin D supplements are well tolerated, safe, and effective when taken as directed by a physician.

6. People need vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for bone health.1 Vitamin D increases the efficiency of the body's absorption of calcium 30 to 40 percent, and phosphorus by 80 percent. Fortified foods and beverages are rich in both vitamin D and calcium, and maintain phosphate levels. Many dietary supplements also contain both of these minerals. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is essential to prevent osteoporosis in men and women who are 50 years of age and older.1

7. Vitamin D from food and dietary supplements offers the same benefits — without the danger of skin cancer — as vitamin D obtained from UV light.1 Vitamin D cannot be used by the body until it is processed by the liver and the kidneys. The usable form of vitamin D created by this process is the same, regardless of how it enters the body.1

8. Vitamin D intake might not lower cancer mortality.7 Several epidemiological studies have suggested that vitamin D can reduce cancer mortality and/or improve cancer survival, but a recent study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) did not show a correlation between the level of vitamin D and overall cancer mortality for most types of cancer.

The amount of vitamin D an individual needs is an active area of research. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that anyone who is concerned about getting enough vitamin D should discuss with his or her doctor the options for obtaining sufficient vitamin D from foods and/or vitamin supplements.

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