Study finds sunscreen may cause vitamin D deficiency

Sunscreen use could affect the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D from food, found a study published in The Journal of The American Osteopathic Association.

The study’s authors researched the link between sunscreen use and chronic diseases such as diabetes and celiac disease – conditions that affect the body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients from food.

Their findings suggested that these diseases combined with sunscreen use contribute to nearly 1 million cases of vitamin D deficiency globally, which has consequences for bone health, muscle and nerve function and the functioning of the immune system.

Sunlight is the most effective source of vitamin D, because while it is found in some foods like fatty fish and fortified cereals contain, the levels are usually low. When sunlight penetrates the skin it converts into an active form of vitamin D-3.

While in recent years consumers have become wiser to the dangers of too much sun exposure and started taking sunscreen usage more seriously, the study’s authors suggested using SPF 15 or higher could contribute towards a reduction in vitamin D-3 production by as much as 99%.

"People are spending less time outside and, when they do go out, they're typically wearing sunscreen, which essentially nullifies the body's ability to produce vitamin D,” said Dr Kim Pfotenhauer of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Touro University California, one of the study’s authors.

Pfotenhauer and the team of researchers suggested in their review that up to thirty minutes’ unprotected exposure to midday sun twice-weekly helps increase and maintain normal vitamin D levels.

“While we want people to protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D,” added Pfotenhauer.