(NaturalNews) Tanning beds can stimulate the body to produce vitamin D, according to research conducted by Michael Holick of the University of Boston and published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
"Vitamin D deficiency is common in both children and adults worldwide," Holick said. "Exposure to lamps that emit UVB radiation is an excellent source for producing vitamin D3 in the skin."
Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for bone health that has also been linked to cancer prevention, is naturally synthesized by the body upon exposure to the ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. But during the winter at extreme latitudes, there may not be sufficient sunlight for people to produce enough of the vitamin.
A study by Holick and colleagues found that levels of vitamin D deficiency in 45 Boston residents increased steadily throughout the winter, from 49 percent in August to 67 percent in November, 74 percent in February and 78 percent in May.
The participants in that study were all taking a 400 IU daily vitamin D supplement.
In addition to bone problems and increased cancer risk, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a heightened risk of Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases such as influenza and tuberculosis, and high blood pressure.
To test the efficacy of tanning beds in fighting vitamin D deficiency, Holick and colleagues studied 15 people between the ages of 20 and 53. All participants had their blood vitamin D levels measured at the beginning of the study and then once per week for seven weeks. They each tanned in a commercial tanning bed three times per week.
After one week, vitamin D levels had increased by an average of 50 percent, and by five weeks they had increased by 150 percent from the starting point. Vitamin D levels did not increase for the next two weeks.
During the summer in extreme latitudes, the body can synthesize enough vitamin D from 15 minutes of sun for light-skinned people, and 30 minutes for those with dark skin.