What is the connection between Pale Vampires and Vitamin D?
Earlier this year I was invited to the Cape Talk/702 studios in Green Point to do a radio interview on skin cancer. It was a live recording with many callers phoning in from all over South Africa.
A general practitioner phoned in, not to ask a question but to rather make a comment. He said he wanted to start a new fashion where people should avoid the sun completely and look as pale as vampires! Unfortunately the talk show host did not give me an opportunity to comment on this and I would have liked to point out that there is a risk of becoming Vitamin D deficient if you avoid the sun completely, especially if you are not taking vitamin supplementation or eating a diet rich in Vitamin D which includes oily fish.
Over the years I have had a number of patients who have had skin cancer in the past and who now obsessively avoid the sun. They often do not take vitamin supplementation or eat a diet rich in Vitamin D, thereby putting themselves at risk of becoming Vitamin D deficient. I have requested serum Vitamin D levels in some of these patients and have found they are often Vitamin D deficient.
Your body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth, to boost your immune system and for overall good health.
A small amount of sun is actually beneficial in producing Vitamin D. However, the amount of sun exposure needed to produce enough Vitamin D will vary according to which part of the world you live in and the time of the year. In sunny South Africa especially in the summer months, you will in all probability get enough sun exposure by just going about your daily business.
I do strongly recommend taking one good multivitamin that contains at least 600IU of Vitamin D per day and to also supplement with Omega 3 and to eat a diet rich in Vitamin D.
I do trail running early in the morning in the nature reserve near my home over the weekends, just as the sun rises over the nearby mountains. I run for approximately an hour and I do not use a sunscreen at this time so that I have a small amount of sun exposure because my job keeps me indoors for most of the week.
I check my Vitamin D levels from time to time and they have always been normal but my wife, who avoids the sun obsessively because she is fair-skinned, was found to be Vitamin D deficient and is now taking Calciferol twice a month to increase her Vitamin D levels together with eating a Vitamin D-rich diet.
The pale vampire look together with a diet low in Vitamin D can definitely compromise your overall health.
If you are in any doubt about your Vitamin D levels, ask your doctor to check your levels next time you have a check-up or a routine blood test.
Please note this is not giving you the go ahead to lie in the sun for long periods of time without sunscreen! Some sun exposure, done responsibly, is good for your health especially if you are not taking any extra supplementation or eating the correct diet.
Dr Ian Webster / August 2014