Salons or Sun Loungers? The Best Way To Get Your Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is required in your body to regulate your levels of calcium and phosphate, keeping your bones, teeth and muscles healthy. But given that there are so many sources of Vitamin D, consumers are often left with a choice as to where they wish to get the health benefit from, but is a decision even necessary given that one of said sources is natural sunlight?
Whether obtained from the sun, salons, or through supplements, there are pros and cons of all sources of Vitamin D, hence the reason for this blog post to lay those out for you. And since you can probably already figure out the benefits of sunlight as a way to get your Vitamin D, let’s start there.
First of all, you never have to worry about getting too much Vitamin D from the sun, as our bodies are able to self-regulate production in our skin. This is also an immediate advantage over using supplements since many brands mislabel their products and do not contain the amount of Vitamin D that is advertised. In addition, the benefits sunlight can provide your body with do not stop at Vitamin D. Research has suggested that our bodies use the sun’s rays to increase the effects of the “green leafy vegetables” we eat. Within half an hour of exposure to UV rays in sunlight, you can get a substantial drop in blood pressure and experience an improvement in artery function due to a surge of nitric-oxide releasing compounds within your bloodstream.
Of course, this benefit is also reliant on you eating the “green leafy vegetables” in the first place, but this research may explain some of the protection that vegetarians have been found to experience. Plant-based eaters are said to be at a reduced risk of developing hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
And there’s more. Morning sun exposure has been proven to help people with season affective disorder, and also improves the mood of wheelchair-bound residents of nursing homes. Finally, daylight exposure can also have an effect on our melatonin levels which is helpful in preventing “a variety of diseases” including cancer, insomnia, depression and diabetes.
So, what are the downsides of sunlight?
Well, these are likely to be relatively well-known to you too. The major reason doctors call for sun protection is because of skin cancer. Medical experts from the World Health Organisation warn about excess sun exposure which is justified by the millions of skin cancer diagnoses and thousands of deaths as a result that occur in the United States alone.
Aside from skin cancer, concerns regarding sun exposure also include an increased risk of cataracts, which lead to vision loss, though the usual sun protection measures apply in order to reduce this risk - wearing a brimmed hat and sunglasses, avoiding the sun between 10am and 2pm etc.
Of course, the damage that UV rays can do to our skin and health is not unique to natural sunlight, with the contemporary trend in tanning salons equally problematic. Considered a so-called “complete carcinogen”, UV rays can not only initiate cancer but also promote and spread the disease. Melanoma is one of the most aggressive skin cancers, and the alarming rise in melanoma among young women is considered to be a result of the increased usage of tanning salons.
Accounting for as much as three quarters of melanoma cases among young people, those who visit salons to use sun beds ten or more times before the age of 30 are believed to be six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma. This is of great significance to our population due to the popularity of tanning salons. The industry is huge around the world. In the US alone, the tanning industry employs around 160,000 people and profits are over $5 billion a year.
With so much money at stake, it is of course in the interests of the giant tanning industry to play down these risks in the form of advertising, much like tobacco companies do for example. In response, laws are being created around the globe to regulate these tanning salons, including age-related prohibitions in areas such as Brazil. Researchers have concluded that access to tanning has been and continues to become further restricted since 2003.
But as many of us know, sun exposure feels good. And there’s a reason for that, the process that leads our skin to tan releases endorphins that can in some cases become addictive. Yes, tanning addiction is a thing. This is especially problematic with tanning beds, since the natural Vitamin D you can gain from sunlight is not always gained from ‘fake tanning’ as often salons emit mostly UVA as opposed to UVB which supplies our Vitamin D.
So, if we are wanting a way to boost our Vitamin D without risking skin cancer? Well, then we are back round the circle and looking at supplements again.
- M Wacker, M F Holick. Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for health. Dermatoendocrinol. 2013 Jan 1;5(1):51-108.
- H Ketha, H Wadams, A Lteif, R J Singh. Iatrogenic vitamin D toxicity in an infant--a case report and review of literature. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2015 Apr;148:14-8.
- M Mowbray, S McLintock, R Weerakoon, N Lomatschinsky, S Jones, A G Rossi, R B Weller. Enzyme-independent NO stores in human skin: quantification and influence of UV radiation. J Invest Dermatol. 2009 Apr;129(4):834-42.
- C Opländer, C M Volkmar, A Paunel-Görgülü, E E van Faassen, C Heiss, M Kelm, D Halmer, M Mürtz, N Pallua, C V Suschek. Whole body UVA irradiation lowers systemic blood pressure by release of nitric oxide from intracutaneous photolabile nitric oxide derivates. Circ Res. 2009 Nov 6;105(10):1031-40.
- C Opländer, C V Suschek. New aspects of nitrite homeostasis in human skin. J Invest Dermatol. 2009 Apr;129(4):820-2. **- C I Eastman, M A Young, L F Fogg, L Liu, P M Meaden. Bright light treatment of winter depression: a placebo-controlled trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1998 Oct;55(10):883-9. **- I C Sumaya, B M Rienzi, J F Deegan 2nd, D E Moss. Bright light treatment decreases depression in institutionalized older adults: a placebo-controlled crossover study. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001 Jun;56(6):M356-60.
- C A Baggerly, R E Cuomo, C B French, C F Garland, E D Gorham, W B Grant, R P Heaney, M F Holick, B W Hollis, S L McDonnell, M Pittaway, P Seaton, C L Wagner, A Wunsch. Sunlight and Vitamin D: Necessary for Public Health. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(4):359-65.
- C Delcourt, A Cougnard-Grégoire, M Boniol, I Carrière, J F Doré, M N Delyfer, M B Rougier, M Le Goff, J F Dartigues, P Barberger-Gateau, J F Korobelnik. Lifetime exposure to ambient ultraviolet radiation and the risk for cataract extraction and age-related macular degeneration: the Alienor Study. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014 Oct 21;55(11):7619-27.
- S N Byrne. How much sunlight is enough? Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2014 Jun;13(6):840-52. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2014 Jun;13(6):840-52.
- M P Purdue, L E Freeman, W F Anderson, M A Tucker. Recent trends in incidence of cutaneous melanoma among US Caucasian young adults. J Invest Dermatol. 2008 Dec;128(12):2905-8.
- A E Cust, B K Armstrong, C Goumas, M A Jenkins, H Schmid, J L Hopper, R F Kefford, G G Giles, J F Aitken, G J Mann. Sunbed use during adolescence and early adulthood is associated with increased risk of early-onset melanoma. Int J Cancer. 2011 May 15;128(10):2425-35.
- N A O'Sullivan, C P Tait. Tanning bed and nail lamp use and the risk of cutaneous malignancy: a review of the literature. Australas J Dermatol. 2014 May;55(2):99-106.
- J Greenman, D A Jones. Comparison of advertising strategies between the indoor tanning and tobacco industries. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Apr;62(4):685.e1-18.
- M T Pawlak, M Bui, M Amir, D L Burkhardt, A K Chen, R P Dellavalle. Legislation restricting access to indoor tanning throughout the world. Arch Dermatol. 2012 Sep;148(9):1006-12.
- G L Fell, K C Robinson, J Mao, C J Woolf, D E Fisher. Skin β-endorphin mediates addiction to UV light. Cell. 2014 Jun 19;157(7):1527-34.