True or False: Using sunscreen leads to vitamin D deficiency.



Vitamin D is an important factor in maintaining a healthy body. It is a fact that sun exposure contributes to the production of vitamin D in the human body, so by using sunscreen to block the sun’s harmful rays, you’re also limiting the amount of vitamin D you can produce. In the past decade or so, some medical professionals have suggested that we should all get a small amount of sun exposure to produce vitamin D, in particular people who live in northern climates. Dermatologists, however, disagree.

There is no scientific data available to support the argument that humans should soak up the sun to produce vitamin D. But in terms of sun and health, one fact is clearly established: there is a definite link between sun exposure and the incidence of skin cancer. So it’s clear that we need to turn to other methods than the sun to get our vitamin D.

Fortunately, getting sufficient vitamin D is easier than most people realize. Humans can meet the daily requirement for vitamin D through diet or vitamin supplements. Some food products naturally contain vitamin D; others are fortified with vitamin D. Health Canada has guidelines called Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for daily vitamin D requirements (and corresponding calcium requirements) for all age groups. These DRI values are set at levels that ensure no sun exposure is needed to obtain sufficient vitamin D. Infants up to 12 months old should get 400 IU of vitamin D a day. After that, it should rise to 600 IU a day right through to age 70, and 800 IU a day for those over 70.

So if you’re worried about you or your children getting enough vitamin D to maintain your health, have a look at your diet first. It’s an easy solution and a lot healthier than sitting out in the sun. 

Montreal Children's Hospital