How many people are actually aware of the benefits and consequences of sun exposure to the skin? A recent survey from the National Osteoporosis Society revealed that most people know very little about vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin – and 94% were confused as to how you actually get vitamin D.
The Good – How Vitamin D is beneficial to the skin and body
Vitamin D is essential because it allows us to effectively absorb calcium from our diet to then be deposited in our bones. Rickets, is a deficiency disease associated with Vitamin D and is still common to day.
Dr Susan Lanham-New, Nutritional Advisor to the National Osteoporosis Society:
“We recommend that between May and September people in the UK should get out in the sun for 10 minutes, once or twice a day, without sunscreen, which blocks the process of vitamin D production. The human body is very efficient at producing vitamin D, so you will have produced enough long before you start to burn.’’
It’s free! Sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D and even on cloudy days your body can still produce vitamin D, but it can take a little longer. We can all afford to top up our vitamin D levels and help keep bones healthy. And that’s not all – Vitamin D has a host of other health benefits too. It regulates cell growth and replication and reduces the risks of a number of cancers, particularly those of the digestive tract; it protects pancreatic cells in adult onset diabetes, requiring less insulin to manage the disease and works well as an additional therapy in the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, particularly of the respiratory tract.
Low vitamin D levels have a significant impact on optimum health: men with low vitamin D levels suffer more than twice as many heart attacks); those that have had gastric bypass surgery for severe obesity have been shown to be susceptible to vitamin D deficiency and bone problems. Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis and Crohn’s disease have all been linked with low vitamin D levels. Studies have shown that MS prevalence is highest where environmental supplies of vitamin D (sunlight and oily fish) are lowest.
Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with obesity. A new study presented at The Endocrine Society’s 92st Annual Meeting in Washington DC this month reported that vitamin D levels in the body at the start of a low-calorie diet predict weight loss success. For every increase of 1ng/ml in vitamin D, subjects ended up losing almost a half pound more on their diet. The study measured the vitamin D levels in 38 overweight men and women before they went on an 11 week calorie restricted diet. Researchers found that most subjects had a vitamin D level that many experts would consider to be in the insufficient range.
The Bad – Limit your sun exposure and take the right precautions
Lying on the beach for two weeks will not top up levels for the rest of the year and may risk burning and skin cancers. It only needs a short amount of time in the sun without sunscreen to produce vitamin D and you should always cover up before you start to burn. Staying in the sun for too long leads to the body breaking down vitamin D soon after it’s produced.
After sufficient sun exposure has topped up your vitamin D you need to know how to protect your skin and your health from overexposure. This protection is not restricted to SPFs in sun lotions. There are a number of nutrients that can help protect your skin from the inside
A recent study at the universities of Manchester and Newcastle revealed that tomatoes could be the new weapon to fight sun damage in the skin. Tomatoes contain lycopene and this study showed that lycopene reduced damage to mitochondrial DNA in the skin, believed to be linked with skin ageing. Professor Lesley Rhodes, dermatologist at the University of Manchester, says, “The tomato diet boosted the level of procollagen in the skin significantly. These increasing levels suggest potential reversal of the skin ageing process’’
Research shows that a couple of cups of green tea can also reduce inflammation – and this includes that initial sun reaction that happens on the first sightseeing walk around the resort! Have a cup every morning as green tea is naturally rich in antioxidants, which help protect the body from free radicals – naturally occurring particles in the body associated with accelerated ageing and an increased risk of major diseases. Exposure to excess sunlight increases the number of free radicals in the blood, but the potent antioxidants found in green tea can act as an additional sunburn insurance.
TEN FACTS ABOUT THE SUN
1.An SPF will protect you from the UVB Burning rays but do not think the higher the protection the better for the skin. The skin does not like the sun for more than 20 minutes, after that all strange things start happening to the cells. My advice is cover up Look for UVB /UVA protection and be sun safe
2.The sun can reflect off of the sand and snow so be aware when you are sitting in the shade or are on the slopes
3.We need some sun for our Vitamin D so do not wear a complete block all day give your body at least 30% with a low factor for an average 20mins (this is for an average sized adult) in the sun to get your Vitamin D
4.An SPF of 20 is as high as you need any high does not give you that much longer in the sun but contains a lot more chemicals which could do your skin more damage
5.Australian and New Zeeland women age on average 10 years faster than British women.
6.The sun is hotter than it feels on the skin
7.After sun bathing apply an antioxidant cream on your body to put back what the sun took out
8.Beware of any drugs you take as some can make you photo sensitive, this means your skin is more sun sensitive and this can lead to pigmentation of the skin. Antibiotics are a classic
9.Most sun damage is done by the time you are 19
10.The sun may start to heal acne but too much will only cause a more serious break out when you get home