Preventing Osteoporosis: Guidelines for the Sunshine Vitamin

Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for 44 million Americans, 68% of whom are women.  In fact, in the U.S. today, 10 million individuals already have osteoporosis and 34 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for this disease.[1]

Here Comes the Sun!

Of all the osteoporosis guidelines we recommend, one of the simplest and most cost effective methods to prevent osteoporosis is to get adequate exposure to sunlight.  The human body makes vitamin D – termed the “sunshine vitamin” – when the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet B rays (UVB) in sunlight. This works because UVB radiation striking the skin converts cholesterol in our body to vitamin D. Then, the body converts the vitamin D into a steroid hormone fixing damaged cells and maintaining good cell health. 

The Many Benefits of Vitamin D

Besides preventing osteoporosis, research confirms that sun exposure on the skin can prevent and even reverse many chronic diseases including:

  • Prevention of breast cancer[2] and halting the growth of breast cancer tumors[3]
  • Prevention and treatment of diabetes[4]
  • Prevention of precancerous colon polyps
  • Prevention of heart disease and reduction of blood pressure
  • Prevention of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Prevention of multiple sclerosis[5]

“But I Thought Sunlight Causes Cancer!”

The hide-from-sunlight advice given by health authorities in the past has been misguided information “of just breathtaking proportions,” said John Cannell, head of the Vitamin D Council, a non-profit, California-based organization. “Fifteen hundred Americans die every year from [skin cancers]. Fifteen hundred Americans die every day from the serious cancers.” The risk of contracting those more serious cancers is reduced in those individuals who have optimal levels of Vitamin D in their body.[2,5]  To reduce the risk of overdoing your sun exposure, follow these tips below.

Tips for Sunlight Exposure:

  • Go out in the sun without any sunscreen for 10 to 30 minutes. Also, get enough of your skin exposed to sun. Exposing only your face and hands may not be enough for adequate conversion into vitamin D.
  • Remember, don’t get sunburned! You must plan ahead. If you know you are going to have to be out in the sun longer than 20 minutes, bring a safe, non-toxic form of sunscreen with you and apply it after the first 20 minutes. The typical sunscreens found on store shelves are often toxic themselves and loaded with suspect carcinogens and should be avoided. Look for sunscreens with natural sunblock agents such titanium dioxide, a mineral that actually deflects burning rays off your skin, and with PABA ester and with natural antioxidants.

“I Don’t Have Time To Go Outside!”

The biggest challenge for most of us is finding 10-30 minutes in our schedule where we can expose big enough portions of our skin to the sun and then dash back in the house or building. So look for times in your normal schedule where you can expose as much of your skin as possible to the sun:

  • Wear short sleeves and/or shorts and eat your lunch out in the sun rather than inside the restaurant.
  • When walking to your car or to lunch, choose a sunny route rather than choosing the shade.
  • Take your exercise walk of 30 minutes in the sun rather than on the treadmill in the house or gym.
  • Take your 15 minute work break twice a day by sitting with a friend out in the direct sunlight.

Yes, you can take a supplement for Vitamin D if you can’t get adequate regular sun exposure. But with summertime almost here, look for ways this summer to get  your Vitamin D from the most natural and effective source available!

[1] The National Institute of Health

[2] Garland CF, Gorham ED, Mohr SB, Grant WB, Giovannucci EL, Lipkin M, Newmark H, Holick MF, and Garland FC: Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: Pooled analysis. J Steroid Biochem Molec Biol 103: 708-711, 2007.

[3] Hatse S, et al “Vitamin D status in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients inversely correlates with tumor size and moderately correlates with outcome” SABCS 2011; Abstract P5-05-01.

[4] The Cleveland Clinic

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

View all posts by UHN Staff

Comments Comments Policy

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Enter Your Login Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.