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Could low vitamin D from sunscreen contribute to diabetes and other chronic diseases?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Sunscreen linked to chronic diseases from low Vitamin D

Researchers have pinpointed a possible downside to wearing sunscreen that could be linked to the development of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and even Crohn's disease.


Multiple studies suggest low levels of vitamin D can be a trigger for the development or worsening of chronic health conditions.

According to a clinical review published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, vitamin D that is synthesized in the body by sun exposure if affected by sunscreen use and skin pigmentation.

Vitamin D levels worldwide

Studies suggest more than 1 billion people worldwide may be affected with low levels of vitamin D from existing chronic disease, use of sunscreen and from inadequate exposure to the sun.

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 Kim Pfotenhauer, DO, assistant professor at Touro University and a researcher on this study in a media release.

Pfotenhauer shares there are healthy ways to get the benefits of sunshine without boosting skin cancer risk

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Normal Vitamin D and tips for boosting your level

  • Walking with just your arms and legs exposed
  • Consume foods drink fortified with vitamin D
  • Consider vitamin D supplements
  • Know your numbers: Vitamin D level less than 20ng/ml indicates a deficiency and can be checked with a simple blood test
  • 21 to 30ng/ml is considered Vitamin D insufficiency
  • Get outside for 5 to 30 minutes, twice a week without any sunscreen

More research is needed to find out if Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency plays a role in disease such as MS, infection, cancer and fracture risk.

Recent research suggests Vitamin D could help prevent colds and flu.

"Science has been trying to find a one-to-one correspondence between vitamin D levels and specific diseases," said Dr. Pfotenhauer. "Given vitamin D's ubiquitous role in the body, I believe sufficient vitamin D is more about overall health."

There has been ongoing research that targets possible ill health effects of insufficient or deficiency in blood levels of the hormone.

Screening for Vitamin D levels is not currently recommended, but for those with symptoms such as muscle weakness, known Vitamin D deficiency or bone fractures should be tested and treatment options should be explored.

It's important to know the study does not mean sunscreen is definitely causing chronic illness. The finding was a review of clinical information that suggests a possibility that too much sun protection could leave us vulnerable to Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency, which in turn could contribute to chronic disease.