Fair-Skinned? You May Need Vitamin D Supplements

Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D for humans.

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People with very pale skin may need to take vitamin D supplements to meet their body’s health needs, reports a recent British study.

The need for the supplements arises, according to the study, because people with pale skin tend to avoid the sun.

Staying out of the sun is, of course, a wise decision, particularly for fair-skinned individuals, who sunburn easily and are therefore at increased risk of developing skin cancer. But sun avoidance may also lower an individual’s vitamin D levels, which the body needs for strong bones and other health reasons. Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D for humans.

For the study, which was published in the October 2011 issue of the journal Cancer Causes and Control, researchers at the University of Leeds measured the vitamin D blood levels of about 1,200 people. They found that 730 of the study’s participants had lower than optimal levels of the nutrient. Furthermore, those who were fair-skinned had significantly lower levels.

The researchers chose 60nmol/L as the optimal vitamin D level because some research has suggested that when levels drop below that amount, the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and other illnesses increases. But not all scientists agree. Many experts put the optimal vitamin D level much lower—at 25nmol/L.

So, although the fair-skinned individuals in the study tended to have the lowest levels of vitamin D, it’s not yet clear that those levels are unhealthful.

Before you worry about your vitamin D levels being too low, talk with your physician. And continue to protect your skin from the sun.

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