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Sunscreens Can Cause Vitamin D Deficiency, Study Suggests

First Posted: May 03, 2017 05:00 AM EDT
Sunscreens Can Cause Vitamin D Deficiency
Blocking the sunrays may help in preventing skin cancer, but the same cannot be said about rickets and osteoporosis.
(Photo : Markus Rothkranz/YouTube screenshot)

Sunscreens are used to block the harmful rays coming from the Sun. In lieu of the fact that constant exposure to harsh sunrays, especially the high-energy ultraviolet (UV) rays, may damage the skin cells and even cause skin cancer, it is essential to use sunscreens. However, preventing Sun exposure by shielding exposed body parts with the help of sunscreens may cause vitamin D deficiency. This is one of the most unlikely side effects of using sunscreens.

For a long time, scientific research has established that the body requires vitamin D to mediate calcium absorption. Hence, vitamin D is essential for maintaining a healthy bone density and preventing the diseases that occur otherwise.

In normal conditions, the body synthesizes vitamin D when exposed to sunrays. However, according to a recent publication made in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, more than 1 billion people across the world have vitamin D deficiency that is related to reduced Sun exposure, News.com.au reported.

Kim Pfotenhauer from Touro University, a contributor to the study, explained that changing lifestyle has significantly reduced the average time a person spends outdoors in the Sun. Furthermore, even in the small period when they go outside, they use sunscreens to block the sunrays. This causes shutting down the body's natural mechanisms of the synthesis of vitamin D.

Although there may not be many immediate side effects, in long term such chronic deficiency of vitamin D may lead to muscle weakness, osteoporosis and other physiological problems associated with low bone density. The consequences are even more severe for people with inherently reduced rates of vitamin D absorption due to Crohn's or coeliac disease.

According to The Economic Times, being exposed to the Sun for at least half an hour twice a week (without applying sunscreen) may help in increasing the levels of vitamin D in such people. For those who cannot accept the idea of being exposed to the Sun directly, they may choose to apply lesser amounts of sunscreens that are below SPF 15. It has been found that applying sunscreens that contain SPF more than 15 reduce the rate of synthesis of vitamin D by 99 percent.

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