Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Fair skin and increased Vitamin D supplementation

Vitamin D is considered a “hot topic” in nutrition these days, as there is increasing research in confirming if, and discovering how, it increases longevity and overall health in humans. Vitamin D is also unique in the fact that it is very hard to find a food source that is rich in it. Other than fortified products like milk and OJ, high levels of Vitamin D occur naturally in very few foods – namely the flesh of fatty fish, fish liver oil, and some mushrooms [1]. The main source of Vitamin D for humans is the sun; where our bodies naturally produce the vitamin upon skin exposure! Of course cloud coverage, latitude, and time of day will affect intake but researchers suggest that an average of 15-20min of sun exposure twice a week is sufficient enough to maintain Vitamin D levels [1]. 

A recent article published in Cancer Causes and Control [2] brings to light the issue of fair skinned people not meeting the suggested adequate intake levels of Vitamin D. It is well known that people with sun allergies and de-pigmentation disorders (such as vitiligo – most notable had by Michael Jackson), must attain Vitamin D via supplementation. However it had never occurred to me that there would be people without such disorders that would also have a hard time attaining the required levels.

This UK study highlights the fact that very pale people, and those with melanoma, burn easily in the sun, and therefore cannot be exposed long enough to attain the Vitamin D levels necessary for adequate health. Fair-skinned people have an increased risk of skin cancer due to the fact that they burn very easily upon exposure to the sun. This study also suggested that melanoma patients should attain their Vitamin D intake via supplements instead of from the sun. 

This study is especially important in northern countries like Canada, the UK, Scandinavia, and Russia where sun exposure is limited throughout the year, so residents already have lower Vitamin D levels, and the majority of people tend to be fairer skinned. 

[1] Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D

[2] Pale People May Need Vitamin D Supplements

From Maggie!

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