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    Balancing Between Your Vitamin D And Sunscreen

    We speak with experts about the relationship between sun exposure with protection and the synthesis of vitamin D.

    'Girl Tanning' - Image Credits: Flickr Under Creative Common Licence

    When entering a pharmacy in Scandinavian countries, the first thing that attracts attention is that, in most, you receive shelves to overflow with vitamin D supplements. If you consider that at least 80% of its production in our The body depends on the sun, and that winter nights at that latitude reach 18 hours, its need is evident.

    In Spain, where daylight hours range between nine and 15 throughout the year, this need would seem strange. And yet, studies suggest that our vitamin D levels resemble those of the Nordic countries.

    According to the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition , up to 40% of the population under 65 would suffer from a deficit of this substance (less than 20 nanograms per milliliter of blood), a figure that would rise to 80% in the next age range.

    Lack of vitamin D has numerous negative effects

    For example, it is needed to absorb nutrients in the intestine such as calcium, essential for bone health. And the lack of calcium can lead to diseases such as osteoporosis, which weakens the bones and break more easily.

    In children, it can cause rickets, a rare disease that softens bone structure. Other works point to a possible relationship with diabetes, irritable bowel or multiple sclerosis.

    The reasons for this vitamin shortage? 

    For Leticia Carrera, director of the Felicidad Carrera center , they are clear: We are more aware and protect ourselves more from the sun, the pigmentation of our skin blocks UVB rays and in our diet we do not include the necessary amount of blue fish, whole dairy, eggs and liver. One of the possible solutions would go through supplementation. They would be an alternative, provided they are of vitamin D3, says Carrera.

    Other voices consider seeking a balance between protection and an exposure that does not block the production of vitamin D. In fact, for our skin to synthesize the necessary amount, radiation does not need to be prolonged. Exposing 25% of our body for five minutes a day is enough, says Dr. Lorea Bagazgoitia , a specialist in Dermatology at the Ruber Juan Bravo Hospital Complex.

    The recommendation should be to use sunscreen, hat or UPF clothing (with sun protection factor), especially between 11:00 and 17:00. Between the sun we receive in the non-rush hours and our imperfection when using the photoprotectors, the body receives enough UVB to synthesize vitamin D .

    And insists on the importance of shielding against UV rays: Reduces damage to the skin, preventing burns and skin cancer.

    The other benefits that sunscreen blocks

    For dermatologist Richard Weller, supplements are not enough to cover all the reactions that sunlight starts. The number of jobs that show that radiation promotes more healthy activity than vitamin D does not stop growing, he says.

    The professional points out his recent work in Germany. In it, he showed that UVA radiation reduces the nitrate (NO 3 ) present in our skin to nitric oxide (NO). It spreads to the circulatory system, relaxing the arteries and reducing blood pressure. If we look at the data from the World Health Organization, high blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death and disease in the world, says Weller.

    In the same work, they proved that the benefits of NO do not stay there. We have proven that UV can reduce both obesity and the tendency to have diabetes with tests on mice, says the doctor. Elite athletes also perform better when they release more NO generated by the sun after consuming nitrate supplements.

    Weller, after these discoveries, claims to be at a crossroads. Should I bet on healthy skin to the detriment of general health? Or is there any way to get the benefits of the sun while protecting us from the undoubted damage it causes?

    The answer, he says, is in the investigation. With these revelations, work is being done on the development of protectors that reproduce the natural synthesis of vitamin D and NO, and in turn block harmful radiation.

    The secret to getting these photoprotectors is in ingredients that are currently being investigated, and whose findings the dermatologist promises to publish soon. At the moment, he has launched his own line, Relaxsol , with which he claims to have achieved it.

    Until other studies confirm it and this new generation of sun creams is developed, experts recommend continuing to focus on adequate protection. There are many cases of melanomas in patients with vitamin D deficiency. This is because sun exposure, although not excessive, can cause damage. It is better to protect yourself, advises Leticia Carrera.

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