Canadian Study Finds Tanning Salon Sunbeds Effective for Raising Vitamin D Levels

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TORONTO, Ont (November 15, 2017) – Sunbeds with a UVB component similar to solar summer sunshine may provide an effective alternate vitamin D source during winter months, according to a new Canadian study just published in the journal Dermato Endocrinology.

People who use tanning salons, specifically sunbeds that have UVB during the winter reach physiological blood levels (>100 nmol/L) of vitamin D, the study reported. It found that participants who used typical sunbeds emitting UVB rays in the range equivalent to outdoor summer sunshine increased their vitamin D blood levels on average by 42 nmol/L. This was achieved using standard tanning exposure schedules on salon sunbeds.

“Sunbeds enable exposure to nearly 100% of skin in a controlled manner which amplifies their effectiveness for vitamin D production,” said Dr. Samantha Kimball, lead author and research director at Pure North S’Energy Foundation in Calgary, AB. “We found that you can effectively raise your vitamin D levels into the desired range without burning and following Health Canada’s recommendations. But there are risks to any type of UV exposure, whether from the sun or sunbed.”

Researchers used sunbeds located in professional sunbed salons in Canada. Previous studies showing that sunbeds trigger vitamin D production in the skin used the same kind of sunbeds, but they were conducted in laboratories. Most sunbeds emit both UVB and UVA light – similar to summer sunlight in Canada. The UV portion of summer sunshine at noon in most of Canada is about 95% UVA and 5% UVB.

Ultraviolet-B (UVB) sun exposure in summer converts cholesterol in your skin to pre-vitamin D. Wintertime sun exposure at northern latitudes in Canada (above 44⁰N) does not contain sufficient UVB to stimulate vitamin D synthesis because of the angle of the sun. Most evolutionary biologists believe skin colour evolution occurred when fairer-skinned cultures migrated further from the equator so the skin would more efficiently produce vitamin D in light-deprived parts of the world.

For most Canadians vitamin D levels drop in October and continue to do so through the winter, and then they require vitamin D supplements or artificial UVB exposure to maintain target levels.

Why consider UV exposure when supplements are an option? Kimball points out that some people cannot absorb vitamin D through the gut with diet or supplements, and must rely on UV exposure entirely. These include those with malabsorption issues such as Crohn’s disease or kidney disease.

Vitamin D health benefits were outlined in a recent Canadian study which found that if Canadians raised their vitamin D blood levels to an optimal 100 nmol/L, it may prevent 23,000 premature deaths and save $12.5B annually in direct health care costs. Kimball and other vitamin D researchers now believe low vitamin D levels in winter leave you more susceptible to colds, flu and serious diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis many forms of cancer and heart disease.

Key research findings include:

- Following standard sunbed tanning protocols in a typical tanning salon can achieve physiological levels of vitamin D when the sunbed lamp emits UVB in the range equivalent to outdoor summer sunshine, which most sunbed lamps do.

- Mean 25(OH)D levels were increased by an average of 42 nmol/L in the sunbeds that used 100W and 160W fluorescents.

- Vitamin D (25(OH)D) levels continued to increase after photoprotection (base tan) was achieved, all the way to the end of the 12-week test period.

- More than 75% of all groups were considered vitamin D insufficient (<75 nmol/L) in January-February at the start of the study.

- There were no adverse events or skin burns reported throughout the duration of the trial.

- The current study supports the suggestion that artificially produced UVB radiation sources that mimic sunlight, in this case fluorescent sunbed lamps with 2.2% and 4.2% UVB, could be a surrogate for sunlight when the UV index is low in northern countries for vitamin D production. 

In Canada, 38% of people or approximately 14 million Canadians have vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L the level recommended by Health Canada. This increases to 40% in winter. However, many feel that this target level for vitamin D is much too low. More than 48 vitamin D scientists recommend that you reach a vitamin D blood level of between 100-150 nmol/L for optimal health.

About the Vitamin D Society:

The Vitamin D Society is a Canadian non-profit group organized to increase awareness of the many health conditions strongly linked to vitamin D deficiency; encourage people to be proactive in protecting their health and have their vitamin D levels tested annually; and help fund valuable vitamin D research. The Vitamin D Society recommends people achieve and maintain optimal 25(OH)D blood levels between 100 – 150 nmol/L (Can) or 40-60 ng/ml (USA).

To learn more about vitamin D, please visit www.vitamindsociety.org

 

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For more information, please contact: 

Stephen Murdoch, Enterprise Canada, 905-346-1230 smurdoch@enterprisecanada.com