(Natural News) A recent analysis of more than 100 studies finds that up to 70 percent of Americans are currently suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Data from the latest review also show that about 13 percent of all deaths in the U.S. can be associated with severe vitamin D deficiency. The researchers also stress that certain beneficial effects — such as the production of nitric oxide and other sun-related mediators — might be independent of vitamin D, and can only be obtained by exposing the skin to sunlight. Health risks associated with sunlight exposure can only be induced by sunburn or long-term exposure, the researchers added.
“The message of sun avoidance advocated by our government, and some within the medical community, should be changed immediately to a recommendation of regular non-burning sun exposure for most Americans. The sun is essential for life and should be diligently pursued in moderation, not avoided,” said study lead author Dr. David Hoel in an article published in Sci-News.com.
The researchers call on the federal government to require manufacturers of sunscreen lotions to put warning labels on their products, explaining that sunscreens may inhibit vitamin D production in the skin.
“Sunscreen should be used as a tool to prevent sunburn, but the public should know that over-use of the product may have unintended consequences. Labeling should also acknowledge that sunscreens have not been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of melanoma,” the researchers note.
Experts cite diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency
The researchers maintain that sufficient non-burning exposure to sunlight helps reduce the risk of hypertension and provides other favorable health benefits. On the other hand, the experts stress that shunning sunlight may increase the risk of certain adverse health conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease as well as multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, and myopia.
In fact, a meta-analysis published in the journal BMJ finds that vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality in middle-aged and elderly patients. Researchers examined 26,018 participants from the U.S. and Europe and found that patients with the lowest vitamin D levels have higher risk of death from cancer or cardiovascular disease.
Another study reveals that severely low vitamin D levels may elevate the risk of all-cause mortality in patients with Type 1 diabetes. An analysis of more than 200 type-1 diabetes patients shows that severe vitamin D deficiency is independently associated with increased odds of mortality after accounting for various risk factors such as blood sugar levels and traditional heart disease markers. The findings are published in the journal Diabetes Care, the flagship journal of the American Diabetes Association.
Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with an increased likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Researchers examined 1,600 elderly patients and found that participants who are only mildly deficient have a 53 percent higher risk of developing the brain conditions. In addition, those who were severely deficient have up to 125 percent increased odds of dementia. “We expected to find an association between low vitamin D levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but the results were surprising – we actually found that the association was twice as strong as we anticipated,” lead author David Llewellyn in an article in Alzheimers.net. The results are published in the journal Neurology.
A large study also finds that inadequate vitamin D levels may increase the odds of developing multiple sclerosis. A team of researchers finds that people who are genetically predisposed to having low vitamin D levels are about twice as likely to suffer multiple sclerosis. However, it is unclear whether increasing vitamin D levels may help mitigate the risk, researchers say. The results are published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Medicine.