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EUROPEAN SUNLIGHT ASSOCIATION
04/24/09

Have some fun in the sun - your health depends on it

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, plays a far-reaching role in health and disease prevention. Recent advances in the understanding of Vitamin D have revolutionized our view of this well-recognized vitamin, and suggest it has a much wider affect than ever believed.
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For decades, we have known vitamin D deficiency causes rickets among children, osteoporosis and other painful bone diseases in adults. Researchers are increasingly connecting Vitamin D deficiency with cancers, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type I diabetes.

Overwhelming evidence points to Vitamin D's role in protecting against cancer, cardiovascular disease, improving immune response and reducing the risk of falls in at-risk people.

There are two ways to get Vitamin D. The first is by exposure to sunlight on the skin; the other through dietary intake and supplements.

We are fortunate in St. George to have plenty of sun exposure as we work and play outdoors. The ultraviolet rays of the sun activate the previtamin D in the skin, and the vitamin is then carried to various organs in the body.

The primary action of Vitamin D is to increase the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the food we eat. Any excess Vitamin D is stored in the liver.

A word of caution: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which can be toxic if taken in high doses. However, when there is too little sun exposure or dietary intake of Vitamin D, then blood levels are low. In the United States, Vitamin D deficiency is an unrecognized epidemic among both children and adults.

Factors that inhibit the absorption of the sun's ultraviolet rays are skin pigmentation, use of sunscreen, time of day, latitude, season and aging.

Dermatologists tell us that too much sun exposure increases the risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer. Chronic overexposure to the sun damages the skin and causes premature aging. The avoidance of all direct sunlight increases the risk of Vitamin D deficiency.

Source: "The Spectrum & Daily News" adapted from European Sunlight Association
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