Skin Health Matters -

Sun Sense

Vitamin D Health Benefits

Back in August, “High Summer” in fact, you may have read our blog piece Sun & Skin: A Little Goes A Long Way? Skin Science Reporter had been visiting New Zealand and discovered that the fear of sun induced cancers has caused Kiwis to cover up so comprehensively that they are now often to be found deficient in Vitamin D. Recently Vitamin D has been much in the news, [see FT Weekend Magazine October 24/25 2009; Cover Story and] after a long period when it has been vastly overshadowed by Vitamins A, B, C & E in the pantheon of important micro-nutrients. The reason for this new found celebrity has much to do with the trend towards Vitamin D deficiency in New Zealanders, and indeed in many other people throughout the world, who either choose not to expose themselves to the Sun’s rays, or who live in northern climates [like the UK] with low levels of UVB radiation in the winter sunshine. Researchers are coming to the conclusion that low levels of Vitamin D may be a factor in people contracting a variety of debilitating and life threatening diseases.

A Potent Steroid Hormone

The same UVB rays from the Sun that are thought to induce cancerous skin lesions on over exposure, also help convert cholesterol in the skin into Vitamin D. It then undergoes two further transformations, first in the liver where it is metabolised into calcidiol, and then in the kidneys where calcidiol is then converted into calcitriol – a potent steroid hormone: at this point it is no longer a vitamin like ascorbic acid or Vitamin E, it is a powerful controlling agent within the human machine. It has been described by one leading scientist [Professor Rheinhold Vieth, of Toronto University’s Department of Medicine & Patho-biology], as being needed “to convey many kinds of messages, and virtually every cell in our bodies has a receptor that can read and respond to calcitriol”.

Bowel Cancer and Multiple Sclerosis

For a drug or compound to be accepted by the medical community as an appropriate therapy for dealing with disease, it must first satisfy demanding criteria in large scale clinical trials. This is expensive and is normally conducted by pharmaceutical companies with patented drugs. But Vitamin D cannot be patented and in itself it may not be the single bullet for a variety of health conditions that it appears to influence. However a growing body of evidence gives rise to the idea that this vitamin, manufactured in the skin by the action of sunlight, may indeed play a major role in protecting human beings from contracting a variety of diseases ranging from brittle bone disease to bowel cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Where to get Vitamin D

During the northern winter there is so little UVB radiation in our sunshine that we are pretty much unable to manufacture Vitamin D from skin / sun interaction, and dietary sources like oily fish [mackerel / salmon] or eggs become important. But during the summer some 15-20 minutes of sun bathing around midday will provide 10,000 international units [IU] of Vitamin D, and way above the 400 IU dosage which the UK & US Health Authorities recommend for daily allowance, but more in line with the levels suspected by scientists like Professor Vieth to be necessary for good health.

Feel Happier

The skin is the body’s largest organ, and it has multiple functions. At Yin Yang Skincare we advocate that you take good care of this vital organ, including a sensible relationship with the Sun. Humans like the feel of sun on their skin, and for a good reason – it is good for our health. A sunny day, feeling the sunshine on the skin, tends to make people feel happier – and given what we are learning about the important function that Vitamin D performs within our bodies, then this is not surprising! But as we commented back in August, we need to have a sensible relationship with the Sun: roasting ourselves through over exposure is a proven path to developing skin related cancers, but blanching our bodies in the style of asparagus stems, looks equally ill advised. For those of our readers who enjoy being outside, remember that Yin Yang pH-Amino Gold Defence Lotion is ideal for protecting the skin from the drying effects of sun and wind, while still allowing penetration of UVB rays.