I’ve posted regularly about the needs for Vitamin D in pregnancy and during breastfeeding - lest you think Vitamin D requirements are confined to those periods, this post is for you. Summer’s just around the corner in this part of the world and time to reflect on what sun exposure is appropriate. Unfortunately complete avoidance has become akin to a religion thanks to dire warnings from Cancer Councils and other eminent bodies of sun-induced skin cancers and melanoma. This religious zeal is particularly apparent where children are concerned, with shade sails over playgrounds, hats with excessive brims and tails, swim wear that covers all flesh and 50+ sun screens. Add to that a generation of young men and women who prefer to spend their spare time indoors in front of computer screens instead of riding surfboards and a recent taste for fashionably pale flesh.
Yet latest research says that sun avoidance is almost as unhealthy as smoking!
I’m not advocating the sort of sun exposure that I've had throughout my life. We lived by the beach and in my mum’s blissful ignorance and with lack of sophisticated commercial products I got a dab of zinc cream on my nose and across my shoulders at the start of a long day in the water. Every summer I had obligatory sunburn until I acquired the colour that for so many of my years was a must-have fashion accessory (how times have changed). Even with the advent of sunscreens claiming 4+ and 6+ and good grief the maximum protection at 8+ I sun-baked, swam, surfed, water-skiied and sailed with not much more than a healthy layer of melanin to protect me. Snow-skiing added insult to injury.
But there is a middle ground and it’s important that we take that middle ground! What we all need is a regular dose of unprotected, non-burning sun exposure. It’s the sun-burning that is primarily associated with skin cancer risk (I would add to that - lack of anti-oxidants) but far fewer die from skin cancer than suffer from a very long list of health problems that are linked to Vitamin D deficiency. That list starts with infertility and continues through pre-eclampsia of pregnancy, premature birth, diabetes types 1 and 2, MS, cancers, influenza, impaired wound healing, poor immune response, muscle weakness in the elderly and more.
If you’d like to test your Vitamin D status, to confirm that you’re in the recommended zone of 40-60ng/ml (100-150nMols/L), you can order your at-home-test-kit through grassrootshealth.net In doing this you’ll contribute to their already massive body of research surrounding this important public health issue.
For updated guidelines concerning appropriate sun exposure and Vitamin D3 supplements check my earlier post.