You may have heard in the news or from your doctor that there have been studies done that associate a low blood level of Vitamin D with some types of cancers, neurologic disease, autoimmune disease and cardiovascular disease. Let me emphasize- the studies show an association, not that a low level of Vitamin D causes these diseases. However, based on these studies there was an emphasis placed on educating patients to have their Vitamin D levels checked or talk with their doctor about getting more Vitamin D.
The two sources of Vitamin D are through the sun’s UV rays or through our diet by either food or supplements. Some doctors had recommended that people spend more time in the sun without sunscreen to increase their levels of Vitamin D. The American Academy of Dermatology has recently ammended their position on Vitamin D. It is NOT recommended that people increase their unprotected UV exposure from the sun or tanning beds in order to increase Vitamin D. Sun exposure and tanning are known causes of skin cancer. Since there is another method of increasing Vitamin D in our systems through our diet, this is clearly the better choice.
There are currently ongong studies to determine if the current recommended adequate intake levels should be revised but for now we are using the levels shown in Table 2 of this link from The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) guidelines for vitamin D.
Some people with higher risk of having Vitamin D insufficiency are “dark skin individuals, elderly persons, photosensitive individuals, people with limited sun exposure, obese individuals or those with fat malabsorption.”
See the official statement here for further details: American Academy of Dermatology Position Statement on Vitamin D.
Brooke Uptagrafft, MD
Dr. Brooke is a family medicine doctor.