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A large percentage of the population would benefit from higher levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an essential role in the prevention of some 20 common cancers, the prevention of bone problems, modulation of neuromuscular and immune function, reduction of inflammation, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes. Vitamin D also seems to improve infertility, weight control and memory.

The D story

When Public Health Messages Collide

On January 19, 2011, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) issued a statement that included the following:

The Academy continues to recommend that the public obtain vitamin D from a healthy diet that includes food naturally rich in vitamin D, foods and beverages fortified with vitamin D, and/or dietary supplements. The Academy reaffirmed its position that vitamin D should not be obtained from unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or indoor tanning devices, as UV radiation is a known risk factor for the development of skin cancer.

Given that the array of potential serious negative effects of vitamin D deficiency is an ever-growing list, what are we to make of this? The plain fact of the matter is that there are very few foods rich in vitamin D, which means that the chances of actually getting enough vitamin D from food are pretty slim.

Yes, UV radiation is a known risk factor for skin cancer, but there are obviously levels of safe exposure, and sunshine is the best source for getting vitamin D. Perhaps the bigger problem here is that the AAD receives millions of dollars both indirectly and directly from the pharmaceutical industry that in recent decades has made daily use of sunscreen ubiquitous, rather than a product that is used in particular situations where sunburn might happen. Sunburn prevention and complete sun avoidance are not the same thing, and we have an overzealous approach to sun avoidance to thank, at least in part, for the current vitamin D deficiency pandemic.

Sources for Further Reading:

Tags: health
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