The Best Way to Get Vitamin D: Sun, Supplements, or Salons?

The Best Way to Get Vitamin D: Sun, Supplements, or Salons?
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If one is going to make an evolutionary argument for what a “natural” vitamin D level may be, how about getting vitamin D in the way nature intended—that is, from the sun instead of supplements?

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If one is going to make an evolutionary argument for what a “natural” vitamin D level might be, how about getting vitamin D in the way nature intended: sun instead of supplements? Let’s run through the pros and cons. Though supplements may only cost about ten bucks a year, sunlight is free. You never have to worry about getting too much vitamin D from sunlight, since your body has a way to regulate production in the skin; so, we don’t have to put our trust in poorly regulated supplement companies to not mislabel their products. Only about half the brands came within 10% of their labeled amount.

And, sunlight may have benefits beyond vitamin D, like the amazing story about how your body may use the sun’s near-infrared rays that penetrate your skin to activate chlorophyll by-products in your bloodstream to make Co-Q10. Well, there’s another way your body appears to use the sun’s rays to maximize the effects of the greens we eat. Within 30 minutes of exposure to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight, you can get a significant drop in blood pressure and improvement in artery function, thanks to a burst of nitric oxide-releasing compounds that flow into your bloodstream. You can even measure the nitric oxide gas, gassing straight off of the skin. Of course, you have to eat greens or beets in the first place for this to happen, but that combo of greens and sunlight may help explain some of the protection that plant-based eaters experience.

Morning sun exposure may help those with seasonal affective disorder, as well as improve the mood of wheelchair-bound nursing home residents. I’ve talked about the benefits of avoiding light at night, but underexposure to daytime sunlight may also affect our melatonin levels—which doesn’t just regulate our circadian rhythms, but may also be helpful in the prevention of cancer, and other diseases. Older men and women getting two hours of outside light during the day appear to secrete 13% more melatonin at night, though we’re not sure what, if any, clinical significance this has.

The downsides of sun exposure include increased risk of cataracts, a leading cause of vision loss, though this risk can be minimized by wearing a brimmed hat and sunglasses. Sunlight also ages your skin, as illustrated here. Who can guess what profession this guy was in? He was a truck driver, who spent his decades getting more sun on the left side of his face—even through a window. You can see what sun can do.

The effects of sunlight on the skin are profound, accounting for up to 90% of visible skin aging: wrinkles, thickening, loss of elasticity. Things like sun exposure and smoking can make you look 11 years older. Cosmetic surgery can make you look eight years younger, but a healthy lifestyle may work even better.

The reason doctors preach sun protection, though, is not for youthful facial looks, but because of skin cancer. Medical authorities from the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, and the Surgeon General warn about excess sun exposure—and for good reason, given the millions of skin cancers and thousands of deaths diagnosed every year in the U.S. alone.

The UV rays in sunlight are considered a so-called complete carcinogen, meaning they can not only initiate cancer, but promote its progression and spread. Melanoma is the scariest, which makes the rising incidence among young women particularly alarming. This increase has been blamed on the increased usage of tanning salons. Tanning beds, and UV rays in general, are considered class 1 carcinogens, like processed meat, accounting for as many as three quarters of melanoma cases among young people: six times the risk of melanoma for those who visited tanning salons ten or more times before the age of 30.

The tanning industry is big business, bringing in billions. There may be more tanning salons than there are Starbucks. And they use those dollars like the tobacco industry, to downplay the risks of their products. Now, laws are being passed to regulate tanning salons, including complete prohibitions, like in the country of Brazil, to age restrictions for minors.

But unlike tobacco, right, tanning isn’t addictive—or is it? There are people who tan compulsively, and report a so-called tanner’s high. Describing tanning behavior like a substance abuse disorder seems, on the face of it a little silly—until you stick people in a brain scanner, and can show the same kind of reward pathways light up in the brain, thanks to endorphins released by your skin when you’re exposed to UV rays, such that you can even induce withdrawal-like symptoms giving tanners opiate-blocking drugs. So, potentially addictive, but dangerous. Harvard researchers suggesting we should view recreational tanning and heroin abuse “as engaging the same biological pathways.”

But there’s a reason sun exposure feels good. That’s a good thing evolutionarily, because sunlight is the primary natural source of vitamin D. So, throughout evolution, it’s more important, right, in terms of passing along your genes, to not die of rickets in childhood; forget skin cancer in your old age. Unlike natural sunlight, tanning bed lights emit mostly UVA, which is the worst of both worlds—cancer risk with little or no vitamin D production. But the small amount of UVB many do emit may be enough to raise vitamin D levels. If only there was a way to raise D levels without risking cancer. There is: vitamin D supplements.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Kenny Louie via flickr.

If one is going to make an evolutionary argument for what a “natural” vitamin D level might be, how about getting vitamin D in the way nature intended: sun instead of supplements? Let’s run through the pros and cons. Though supplements may only cost about ten bucks a year, sunlight is free. You never have to worry about getting too much vitamin D from sunlight, since your body has a way to regulate production in the skin; so, we don’t have to put our trust in poorly regulated supplement companies to not mislabel their products. Only about half the brands came within 10% of their labeled amount.

And, sunlight may have benefits beyond vitamin D, like the amazing story about how your body may use the sun’s near-infrared rays that penetrate your skin to activate chlorophyll by-products in your bloodstream to make Co-Q10. Well, there’s another way your body appears to use the sun’s rays to maximize the effects of the greens we eat. Within 30 minutes of exposure to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight, you can get a significant drop in blood pressure and improvement in artery function, thanks to a burst of nitric oxide-releasing compounds that flow into your bloodstream. You can even measure the nitric oxide gas, gassing straight off of the skin. Of course, you have to eat greens or beets in the first place for this to happen, but that combo of greens and sunlight may help explain some of the protection that plant-based eaters experience.

Morning sun exposure may help those with seasonal affective disorder, as well as improve the mood of wheelchair-bound nursing home residents. I’ve talked about the benefits of avoiding light at night, but underexposure to daytime sunlight may also affect our melatonin levels—which doesn’t just regulate our circadian rhythms, but may also be helpful in the prevention of cancer, and other diseases. Older men and women getting two hours of outside light during the day appear to secrete 13% more melatonin at night, though we’re not sure what, if any, clinical significance this has.

The downsides of sun exposure include increased risk of cataracts, a leading cause of vision loss, though this risk can be minimized by wearing a brimmed hat and sunglasses. Sunlight also ages your skin, as illustrated here. Who can guess what profession this guy was in? He was a truck driver, who spent his decades getting more sun on the left side of his face—even through a window. You can see what sun can do.

The effects of sunlight on the skin are profound, accounting for up to 90% of visible skin aging: wrinkles, thickening, loss of elasticity. Things like sun exposure and smoking can make you look 11 years older. Cosmetic surgery can make you look eight years younger, but a healthy lifestyle may work even better.

The reason doctors preach sun protection, though, is not for youthful facial looks, but because of skin cancer. Medical authorities from the World Health Organization, the American Cancer Society, and the Surgeon General warn about excess sun exposure—and for good reason, given the millions of skin cancers and thousands of deaths diagnosed every year in the U.S. alone.

The UV rays in sunlight are considered a so-called complete carcinogen, meaning they can not only initiate cancer, but promote its progression and spread. Melanoma is the scariest, which makes the rising incidence among young women particularly alarming. This increase has been blamed on the increased usage of tanning salons. Tanning beds, and UV rays in general, are considered class 1 carcinogens, like processed meat, accounting for as many as three quarters of melanoma cases among young people: six times the risk of melanoma for those who visited tanning salons ten or more times before the age of 30.

The tanning industry is big business, bringing in billions. There may be more tanning salons than there are Starbucks. And they use those dollars like the tobacco industry, to downplay the risks of their products. Now, laws are being passed to regulate tanning salons, including complete prohibitions, like in the country of Brazil, to age restrictions for minors.

But unlike tobacco, right, tanning isn’t addictive—or is it? There are people who tan compulsively, and report a so-called tanner’s high. Describing tanning behavior like a substance abuse disorder seems, on the face of it a little silly—until you stick people in a brain scanner, and can show the same kind of reward pathways light up in the brain, thanks to endorphins released by your skin when you’re exposed to UV rays, such that you can even induce withdrawal-like symptoms giving tanners opiate-blocking drugs. So, potentially addictive, but dangerous. Harvard researchers suggesting we should view recreational tanning and heroin abuse “as engaging the same biological pathways.”

But there’s a reason sun exposure feels good. That’s a good thing evolutionarily, because sunlight is the primary natural source of vitamin D. So, throughout evolution, it’s more important, right, in terms of passing along your genes, to not die of rickets in childhood; forget skin cancer in your old age. Unlike natural sunlight, tanning bed lights emit mostly UVA, which is the worst of both worlds—cancer risk with little or no vitamin D production. But the small amount of UVB many do emit may be enough to raise vitamin D levels. If only there was a way to raise D levels without risking cancer. There is: vitamin D supplements.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Kenny Louie via flickr.

Doctor's Note

Yes, we can get some of the benefits of sun exposure without the risks by taking vitamin D supplements. But, for the sake of argument, what if such supplements didn’t exist? Would the benefits of sun exposure outweigh the risks? That’s the subject of the final installment of my six-part series on the latest in vitamin D science, The Risks and Benefits of Sensible Sun Exposure.

To see the first four videos, check out:

I also explore vitamin D as it relates to specific diseases:

Here’s the video about that amazing chlorophyll activation: How to Regenerate Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) Naturally.

What do greens and beets have to do with artery function? Check out some of my latest videos on the wonders of nitrate-rich vegetables:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

186 responses to “The Best Way to Get Vitamin D: Sun, Supplements, or Salons?

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  1. if one has very low body fat and very low cholesterol, does the human body have less a chance to manufacture vitamin D in body?

    Are there any sort of internal body requirements? I am assuming there is some sort of synergy or nutrient base in the dermatitus that allows for vitamin D synthesis.

      1. I think the entire chain of science has been skipped. This video seems to talk only about the worst possible outcomes of sun (or UV) over-exposure. Further, the entire argument FOR Vit D enhancement to “improve” blood chemistry seems to be entirely statistical, not scientific at all. If the problem is low D leads to bad bones, then ask NASA about the science – they will tell you that weight bearing exercise, sun exposure, overall health, and diet are all important, not D alone. If the problem is low D leads to diabetes, heart disease, and all the rest, including autoimmune problems, then we already know that diet/lifestyle is the most important single factor. Both science and statistics tell us these facts.

        Every supplement, except Vit B12, tested so far has shown negative net benefits. We can expect the same result for Vit D – after the hysteria about sun overexposure passes.

        Have we really come to the point that we fear the sun? Never mind, there’s a pill for that. Or a cream – wait a minute, is it possible that this fear led to the over-use of sun creams in recent years? Wasn’t science looking into this paranoia just a few years ago? And by the way, this video never answered the title question that it asked (if it did, I missed it). Not too happy with this one, Dr G.

        1. Agreed there is definitely a multi-factorial component and addressed in some degree in other videos of this series, I remember a specific quote- ‘running around in the sun’… not just vitamin D levels per se…

          The only conclusive evidence I have seen so far for supplementation is for elderly (mostly female) population, in residential care (minimum sun exposure) and to prevent falls/fractures.

          The point raised here though is the issue perhaps this is like B12- a ‘man-made’ problem (ozone depletion, migration, global warming etc..) that needs a ‘man-made’ solution to survive in the altered environment… or is it just a matte of sun/exercise/diet… hard call to make at the moment it seems…

          As for the title, the video addresses sun Vs supplements as follows-

          -Price
          -Regulation in body (no risk of hypervitaminosis)
          -Regulation of levels in supplements (levels differ from claimed)
          -Additional benefits of sunlight not found in a supplement (e.g. CQ10 production)
          -Downsides of excesses sun exposure (not associated with supplementation)- specifically cataracts which considering most sunbed users wear eye protection…

          I therefore don’t think the title or conclusion was that poor, but appreciate your feedback!

          1. As with so many vitamin supplements, there always seems to be a downside when they are taken, compared to getting them in some natural way. It makes me wonder…what other benefits do we get when we get Vit D naturally from the sun (that aren’t yet known). Intuition tells me to get Vit D from the sun..and i do. But i can’t recommend the same for everyone. If you have lived in a northern climate and moved south..and then decide to start getting lots of sun–Vit D..i would suspect it could be dangerous.

              1. Dr Greger certainly has few rivals (if any) when it comes to comprehensive, in-depth analysis of nutritional science.

            1. From what I read, vitamin D synthesized from the sun or Vitamin D from foods and supplements are all the same.

              https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

              Despite the importance of the sun for vitamin D synthesis, it is prudent to limit exposure of skin to sunlight [19] and UV radiation from tanning beds [21]. UV radiation is a carcinogen responsible for most of the estimated 1.5 million skin cancers and the 8,000 deaths due to metastatic melanoma that occur annually in the United States [19]. Lifetime cumulative UV damage to skin is also largely responsible for some age-associated dryness and other cosmetic changes. The American Academy of Dermatology advises that photoprotective measures be taken, including the use of sunscreen, whenever one is exposed to the sun [22]. Assessment of vitamin D requirements cannot address the level of sun exposure because of these public health concerns about skin cancer, and there are no studies to determine whether UVB-induced synthesis of vitamin D can occur without increased risk of skin cancer [1].

            2. I lived in England (temperate climate) for nearly sixty years to Thailand (tropical) where I have lived for 14 years. For the last year I have lived at only 9 degrees latitude. I go out in the midday sun for up to two hours at a time on my bike about four times a week and have normal ‘D’ levels. In fact ALL my vital signs are well within normal ranges. Of course I am speaking personally and cannot vouch for a greater sample than one! No, I am not mad, I feel very comfortable in the hot sun.

        2. Last sentence is-“If only there was a way to raise D levels without risking cancer. There is: vitamin D supplements.”

        3. http://www.ergo-log.com/glucosaminelongevity.html

          The table below shows the effect of a number of separate vitamins on mortality. None of the trends shown is statistically significant, although nearly all vitamins appear to lower the chance of mortality. Highest score goes to the odious beta-carotene. [If you smoke or work with asbestos, you’re still better off avoiding this supplement.]

          When it comes to the minerals, magnesium scores best. For the minerals there is no statistically significant trend to be seen either, although once again all seem to reduce mortality.

          There are stronger causal relationships in the non-vitamin/non-mineral supplements category. Glucosamine and chondroitin reduce mortality significantly. Fish oil lowers mortality by an almost significant amount, and ginkgo is not far off a statistically significant effect too.

          *criticize the methodology?

      2. Lower vitamin D is usually associated with higher cholesterol (though possibly correlation, not cause and effect of course). In a typical normal human, most plant-based doctors do not think cholesterol levels can be too low, and more over it’s a matter of the health of your arteries (oxidised cholesterol induced damage) Vs cholesterol level per se.

        Vitamin D in humans is roughly produced by-

        7-dehydrocholesterol + UVB > previtmin D3 > isomerise spontaneously to vitamin D3.

        7-dehydrocholesterol is highest in the epidermal layer of skin.
        I believe unless you have some inborn/genetic error of cholesterol synthesis, such as Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome OR any severe liver/intestinal disease/disfunction affecting cholesterol function OR and skin condition affecting the epidermis, it seems unlikely you won’t have enough 7-DHC.

        This study is in rats, but is an interesting analysis of internal body requirements-
        http://www.jlr.org/content/5/3/422.full.pdf

        1. Hi Renae
          If you re-watch the entire series I believe the message/conclusion is about lifespan and mortality.
          This was meant for your response to Doctor Dave. Posted in wrong place.

              1. I think I may be misunderstanding you sorry?

                The question I have answered here was- ‘does low cholesterol contribute to low levels of vitamin D’?

                My answer was- ‘usually the inverse relationship is true’ in a typical healthy human.

                The question is not addressed in the video series I don’t recall?

              2. Ah I see… That comment I believe I refer to strictly supplementation. Are you asking if I believe there is conclusive evidence for ALL people to supplement prophylactically?

                1. Sorry Renae
                  I accidentally posted my comment under the wrong response. Mine was in response to Doctor Dave. I think the take home message of the series is that supplementation has a link to a longer lifespan/mortality.

    1. You always have some fat in the body no matter how skinny you are and that’s enough to retain the Vit D or most vitamins that are fat soluble. And I think fat soluble only means that you need to consume some (healthy) fat while consuming food or supplement which contain those vit for the body to absorb it.

    2. Lower vitamin D is usually associated with higher cholesterol (though possibly correlation, not cause and effect of course). In a typical normal human, most plant-based doctors do not think cholesterol levels can be too low, and more over it’s a matter of the health of your arteries (oxidised cholesterol induced damage) Vs cholesterol level per se.

      It seem low body fat is more a benefit to higher vitamin D levels than high body fat, as body fat can both store vit D away from blood and one recent study I could not find a free link for (small 20/20 group, but interesting), suggests it may even reduce enzymes important for Vit D production (so active and passive decrease in Vit D).

      This is a Korean study but shows an inverse correlation between body fat and Vit D levels-
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24561974

      This is quite an interesting related read-
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516990/

      Vitamin D in humans is roughly produced by-

      7-dehydrocholesterol + UVB > previtmin D3 > isomerise spontaneously to vitamin D3.

      7-dehydrocholesterol is highest in the epidermal layer of skin.
      I believe unless you have some inborn/genetic error of cholesterol synthesis, such as Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome OR any severe liver/intestinal disease/disfunction affecting cholesterol function OR and skin condition affecting the epidermis, it seems unlikely you won’t have enough 7-DHC.

      This study is in rats, but is an interesting analysis of internal body requirements-
      http://www.jlr.org/content/5/3/422.full.pdf

    3. Miss Michelle: It’s said casually that the human body makes vitamin D from cholesterol. Vitamin D is not made directly from cholesterol. The body makes cholesterol from a compound called acetyl coenzyme A via a very long pathway, of which the last step is the conversion of a compound called 7-dehydrocholesterol to cholesterol under the influence of sunlight. So, the body doesn’t need cholesterol to make vitamin D. But one could argue that the cholesterol level of a person is low because 7-dehydrocholesterol level is low, leading to low vitamin D levels, implying a positive correlation between cholesterol levels and vitamin D levels. Similarly, one could argue that cholesterol levels are low because more 7-dehydrocholesterol is converted to vitamin D, which is consistent with the negative correlation between vitamin D levels and cholesterol levels Renae has mentioned.

    4. I recently discovered I was deficient in vitamin D (36nmol/l). There are contrasting views as to whether vitamin D supplementation is healthy/dangerous. Some experts such as John mcdougall suggest taking vitamin D is extremely detrimental to health. Are there any health risks to taking this supplement?

  2. I was a disappointed in the conclusion. Isn’t there a middle ground here? Can one get the Vitamin (hormone) D benefits, and others (CoQ10, NO, endorphins, etc.) in a short exposure with the most miniscule of cancer risk? Most studies of cancer risk point to burns and long periods of sun exposure in occupations or habitual beach tanning as engendering cancer risk, rather than a 10 or 20 minute exposure. Perhaps this is an example of hormesis?
    What is the risk vs benefit equation for regular, short duration sun exposures?
    Mike

    1. I wondered whether there might be benefits to using a tanning bed with non-UV light. This would give the chlorophyll-related benefits, the SAD-alleviating benefits, and possibly others. Is the endorphin effect specific to UV, or will any light do?

      1. I am not sure if it would give the chlorophyl/co-q10 benefit because that comes from red light, doesn’t it? However, there are some more expensive lamps out there that emit this red light… Dr. Gregor only covered conventional tanning beds which of course those are terrible. I hope he covers the “safe” tanning beds at some point in the future.

        1. He can only cover what the research says, and if those other lamps you talk about haven’t been subjected to research, then it’s not going to be covered by Dr.Gregor.

      2. UVB lights are used therapeutically for conditions such as psoriasis already, so there are options though I would need to see if there was any data as a correlation between these lamps and vit D.

        I have a feeling, like almost anything humans try and recreate with reductionist models, that it’s the SUN (like it’s the carrot, not the beta carotene) that infers the benefits.

    2. I think there’s a middle ground, too. In the middle of summer it doesn’t take long at all to get a huge dose of vitamin D, plus the other benefits the sun offers. Also the more skin exposed to the sun, the shorter time needed out in the sun. Five minutes in a bathing suit at noon should do it for light skinned individuals.

      1. Pretty sure he came to this conclusion elsewhere, maybe it will be in the next video? I remember because I stopped taking supplements and opted for my 10-15 minutes at noon :)

        I certainly hate the idea of sunscreen use then leading me to need to take supplements (especially with all the sun exposure benefits in this video!). Haven’t seen vitamin companies selling sunscreen but it wouldn’t be a huge leap in profitability logic if it did happen ;-)

      2. The issue of course is location, time of year, genetics, skin colour, ozone layer, sun angle, cloud cover, previous sun exposure etc etc…

        Would love a simply answer though!

    3. I am not an expert in this vit D matter but what I read is that you need to be out in the sun around noon to get the most UV and vit D so that you can minimize your time in the sun. So being out in the sun at let say 4:00PM in the summer may not do any good. Also the amount of vit D produced on any individual depends on skin tone, age, health, etc.

      I look at supplements in a different manner. Good ones are organic and not man made (synthetic) and are just like foods concentrated in a pill. Good ones are derived from foods actually. For sure, this is not a free ride to eat lousily or to not exercise. But rather it is supplementation to what we eat as the name implies.

    4. I think small exposure was mentioned in previous video by Dr G. is fine and beneficial. The supplementation is also needed for certain categories of people with limited sun exposure either due living in a climate with less sun or being confined to indoor or due to some kind of inflammatory issue in the body.
      Certain food as mentioned with high chlorophyll as well as food with high carotene and also food with high omega three has protective effect on skin from exposure to sun.

      The Optimal Dose of Vitamin D Based on Natural Levels

    5. Of course though this will have HUGE individual variation, depending on location, skin colour, genetics, previous sun exposure, ozone layer etc etc…

      Whilst it would be nice for a definite answer, I don’t feel that is coming any time soon unfortunately… maybe with the rise of DNA testing if that’s your thing.

      Whilst based on older Australians (likely Caucasian), this is an interesting attempt at quantifying minutes-
      http://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2012/march/vitamin-d-and-the-musculoskeletal-health-of-older-adults/

  3. My understanding is that the recommended vitamin D supplements are made by exposing animal secretions like lanolin to “radiation.” I heard that all Vitamin D supplements are irradiated. Not wanting to expose myself to a lot of that, I chose to only supplement on days I don’t get to lay out and in the winter months. Because my face and forarms have had quite a bit of sun exposure through the years, I set up a sun umbrella to cover my face and neck and only expost my bikini-wearing body. If I got an average of a half hour of sun a day on my body, that would probably never come close to what I already have on face and forearms. No skin cancer or precancerous condition yet on face and hands (or anywhere) so I figure it’s a safe risk.

    1. Lilyroza, I think you have a good routine. Our faces are such a small percentage of our total skin area that we can always protect our face from the sun to prevent wrinkles and sun damage. Exposing only the areas that are not sun damaged is a great way to get natural vitamin D without further harming sun damaged skin. When I go out in the sun I am fully protected with clothes, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses. Then in the summer months, close to solar noon, I lay out with ~60% of my non damaged skin exposed, for 6-20 minutes to soak up the health benefits of the sun.

    2. Sounds good… but I wouldn’t call lanolin an animal secretion, more like an animal outer layer.. secretions come from the inside of the animal.

    3. There are vegan vitamin D3 supplements on the market, look for Vitashine D3. Vitamin D2 supplements are vegan if they are not based on gelatin.

      If by ‘irradiated’ you mean exposed to UVB radiation, then yes, all sources of vitamin D are irradiated, just as your skin.

  4. On the subject of skin cancer prevention: I read (on a site that sells SPF 100 clothing) that ordinary clothing blocks only 5% or so of UV rays. This seems unbelievable until you remember Dr. G’s video on the penetrative powers of light. As I recall, this video stated that in bright sunlight enough light penetrates the skull that one could potentially read a newspaper by it!

    1. Trying to find that video now!

      I think protection depends on weave density, colour, fabric nature, thickness, stretch, moisture content and probably more!

      I definitely don’t think those white hole-filled sports singlets offer much more than nothing that’s for sure!

      But as someone who burns easily, often a cotton tshirt seems to provide a lot of protection, at least at the visible level, but yes who knows what happens where I can’t see!

      And yes…. like B12, another largely man-made created problem that now needs a solution.. sigh…

  5. Excellent video and highly supported documentation…..but how long to be in the sun………Dr. McDougall says 30 minutes. Also what is the level of risk for increased cataracts if using sunlight to provide D as well as many other healthful benefits. Jon Rosenbaum

  6. I’m one of those guys who believes in sensible sun exposure for optimum vitamin D and will never suffer from insipid skin radiance for the sake of alleged cancer prevention. And don’t forget, “Study Shows People With Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome More Likely to Have Vitamin D Deficiency” — Tang, J. Archives of Dermatology, October 2010; vol 146: pp 1105-1110.

    1. I wonder if that though is older people (often residential care, hospitals, more time inside) and hence lower vit D experiencing BCCs from sun exposure in youth…

  7. Vitamin D supplementation is one subject that still has me quite confused. There are many that recommend supplementation to ensure bone health but then there are others like Dr. McDougall who not only believe that supplementing does not support good bone heath but that it may also be harmful and believe that we should get all of our Vitamin D from the sun. With all of the conflicting opinions among the Vegan expert community I’m really not sure what to do. For now I try to get out for a 1 to 2 hour walk during the noon hour in the summer (while supplementing during the winter months) however as a result of watching this video I’m now wondering if I should be concerned about skin cancer. It would have been helpful if during the video Dr. Greger had some information on those same rural east Africans who were mentioned in the study as having optimal concentrations of Vitamin D in their blood in terms of Skin Cancer rates in addition to their purported good bone health.

    1. Armando, it’s complicated! How much sun you get on your skin, the color of your skin, how much skin is exposed, the angle of the sun, and other factors we probably don’t yet know about make getting sufficient vitamin D a very individual matter. Then there is the inconsistency of supplements. The only way to know if you are getting enough is by testing, and even that seems to vary considerably from lab to lab.

      This whole series seems to leave a lot of loose ends, probably because of all the variables.

      Now that Dr McDougall’s son is a doctor in cool and cloudy Portland, OR, where people don’t have a lot of skin uncovered for months at a time, and where the sun is at a low angle for many of those months, I wonder if he will alter his opinion at all.

      1. Agreed with so many influencing variables! Doesn’t the sun, ozone layer, personal habits, individual genetics etc… realise we want a good RCT that’s personally tailored to the individual! haha

    2. The focus on mid-day sun exposure is based on the bad mindset of always trying to get something (vitamin D) for the shortest time investment. Assuming you live in a place with clean air and that’s not cloudy 100% of the time, my recommendation would be to try to get as much exercise as possible outside during the morning and late afternoon and avoid the mid-day sun. A 2 hour noon walk every day during a sunny summer is probably more risk than benefit.

      1. Yes ! It’s natural to avoid the midday sun , most places even in Canada it’s way too hot out between 11am and 3pm , I get tanned without even trying , just doing a few chores or walking down for the mail gets me maybe an hour or more. Pretty easy but does depend on your job of course.

      2. Ryan, UV ray from the sun at noon has short wavelength (UVB) compared to that in late afternoon that has longer wavelength (UVA) and it’s more prone to give skin cancer. So it’s not the duration of time in the sun to get vitamin D but the type of UV ray at noon that does not give skin cancer.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18348449

        1. Thanks for the references. I usually go walking or bike riding midday and thought I was
          doing myself the most harm (even though sun protected as much as
          reasonable).

    3. It’s definitely a tough one for sure and one where there is a lot of influence of individual variation, location, genetics, diet etc…

      Would be great if we could have a way of knowing what’s best for each individual to optimise Vit D and sun exposure with minimal skin cancer risks for sure!

      I feel the ‘best’ way we currently know is to test blood levels (though they can be largely inaccurate… sigh….) and to minimise sun burn/excessive exposure and have regular skin checks.

  8. From personal experience I have to wonder if sunscreen doesn’t cause as many issues as it’s supposed to prevent. Call me nuts but I am always a little leery of many “solutions” man creates.

    1. Many sunscreens have cancer-causing ingredients, so you’re not nuts at all.

      My grandpa was a farmer in Oklahoma, which meant spending many sunny hours behind a mule out in the cotton fields. He, and all the farmers, wore long sleeves and straw hats in summer, felt hats in winter. They had “farmer tans” on hands, necks and faces, since they couldn’t avoid all sun exposure. No skin cancers for him or Grandma, who tended the garden, hung out the wash, took care of the chickens and turkeys. She covered up, too. Of course, they ate real food, most of which they grew. I doubt they were deficient in vitamin D, but they weren’t exposed to the thousands of chemicals, many of which we cannot avoid today.

    2. I’ve never really used sunscreen , but used to burn easily unless took great care and even then would burn some parts . Now on WFPB diet I have noticed that I don.t seem to burn at all and I can spend as much time as needed outside , and here I thought that was a myth , that you don’t burn as easily on plant based diet .

      1. Whilst you may burn less and have less oxidative damage (yay!) I feel there is currently not enough evidence and too much individual variation to advise people a WFPB diet is enough alone unfortunately!

    3. I’m with you – see my post above as “Guest”. Nasty chemicals on my skin every day which we absorb . . yech! So I choose other options detailed above and am hoping I get enough VitD3.

    4. Physical sunscreens such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are safe and recommended for those with sensitive skin. They are minerals that sit on top of the skin and deflect UV rays.

      Sunscreens being absorbed into the skin (the molecules are too large to penetrate) and/or causing cancer has been debunked, but since it makes for sensationalist clickbait I continue to see it brought up everywhere as fact. If you’re chemical-phobic — even though everything is a chemical, including water, and if I posted the ingredients of a banana it’d be a paragraph long — then nothing I say will be convincing anyway. Go without sunscreen at your own risk. Dr. Greger thoroughly explained the consequences of it beyond skin cancer.

      I find it interesting that while people accept a B12 supplement as necessary because humans no longer get it naturally by drinking from streams or eating produce straight from the ground, when it comes to sun exposure all logic seems to fly out the window. No consideration given to the fact that the ozone isn’t what it was 100 years ago let alone throughout human evolution. Humans have had to adapt by supplementing skin protection they no longer receive from the atmosphere.

      1. Considering even many sunscreen companies have labels saying ‘potential carcinogen’… I don’t think the myth has been debunked just yet… Over-inflated? Highly likely, but entirely false? I’m not yet convinced…

        I agree with the fear of ‘chemicals’… but I think you realise it’s typical ‘lay-language’ for potentially harmful ingredients…

        I made a comment similar to yours above with regard to the ozone and B12… sometimes man-made problems seem to need man-made solutions… sigh…

        1. Which sunscreens are those? Even a list of what chemicals are supposedly carcinogenic would help.

          How does the ‘lay-person’ determine what a “potentially harmful ingredient” is? I’ve seen people get upset about a chemical name they didn’t recognize and it would turn out to be another name for salt, for example.

          It doesn’t seem you’re in favor of zinc-based sunscreens either, may I ask why?

          1. I honestly cannot remember and it was in California, so potentially anything on this list-
            http://oehha.ca.gov/media/downloads/crnr/p65list071516.pdf

            And I’m not saying it’s correct, I ate seaweed with the same label, smart or not I know some people think the law is excessive. I just meant that if there wasn’t at least some evidence I feel it’s unlikely the company would have such a label!

            I want more evidence of safety is more my view before I form strong opinions. I’m more suspicious than anything and maybe coming across a little different over the internet than I am trying to!

            EXACTLY the problem… I have a real issue when companies use this to their advantage…. I don’t know a solution and it’s frustrating for sure…

            I feel they are probably a better option, but I would need to do my research before committing to a solid opinion. I’m not against them per se yet, I was more protecting my comment from an onslaught that often happens on this website!

            1. The only ingredient used in sunscreens I could find on that list is titanium dioxide in powdered form, which is also used in products from eye cosmetics, to toothpastes, to food. According to the IARC, evidence showed that high concentrations of titanium dioxide dust caused respiratory tract cancer in rats
              exposed by inhalation noting that human studies conducted so far do
              not suggest an association between occupational exposure to titanium
              dioxide and an increased risk for cancer. There’s a lot more information at this site: http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/titanium-dioxide-2/

              This is why I like specifics. The only information I get from a search of “sunscreens cause cancer” is a bunch of clickbait (and I couldn’t find any applicable results for “sunscreen warning labels” in terms of carcinogens). You get much different results when you search by ingredient.

      2. Many moons ago, when I took a nutrition course in college I remember the professor making a similar statement debunking the claims of skin creams to help the skin – because as you state the molecules are too large, etc.

        The problem is a great many chemicals show up in blood work within seconds of skin absorption, particularly solvents.

        From personal experience I found the professor’s claim to have zero merit. I suffered from psoriasis from age 12 to age 24. What cured me within a couple of weeks, never to return, was an application of Vit. E oil.

        A whole industry has developed in cosmetics which deal with the application of nutrients to the skin, as described by Dr. Perricone. I also have witnessed proof myself that these skin creams work to improve the quality of skin.

        So, to casually dismiss applying carcinogens and endocrine disruptors directly on skin, especially on children, is as reckless as the doctors who prescribe sunblock without knowing all the hazards.

        Again: EWG.org for more information on chemicals and sunscreen in particular.

        1. Unfortunately, there isn’t a SkincareFacts. Whenever I ask which ingredients are carcinogenic no one can tell me, all they know is “sunscreens cause cancer”, so I’ll use an example: Retinyl Palmitate. It’s been said to increase the risk of skin cancer because of one unpublished study 10 years ago which was not peer-reviewed or tried under different conditions. The researchers didn’t test on humans nor was the ingredient tested in sunscreens. High concentrations of it (much higher than would ever be used in a skincare product) were applied directly to rodent skin and the breed they used are predisposed to skin cancer. As for retinyl palmitate, it’s otherwise known as vitamin A and is naturally stored in your skin already.

          This is all I’m trying to relate. I assume anyone who’s found their way to NutritionFacts is interested in science and the pursuit of the truth. I just wish people applied that same mentality to everything. I highly suggest watching John Oliver’s “Scientific Studies” on YouTube to see how often and how poorly the media reports on research (which often isn’t sound in the first place). Many studies are manipulated by researchers to produce results that will lead to grants and the media is more interested in sensationalism than fact.

      3. Environmental Working Group does a great job listing safe sunscreens. And the sunscreens at the top of their list considered safe have zinc oxide. I would be burnt to a crisp if I didn’t wear sunscreen. I am with you.

    5. They needed a solution to the pollution-induced ozone layer damage… our natural protection to some degree!

      Some seem much safer than others, like physical Vs chemical barriers…

      I too am cautious of any man-made solution, but as with B12… sometimes a problem is created that needs a ‘man-made’ solution to survive/thrive in the altered environment I feel… As with things like the ‘luxury’ of vaccinations… sure you don’t have to wear sunscreen… provided that you make an informed decision and accept any associated consequences….

      It’s not an easy one!

  9. Poor title for this video – this one should have been called “Benefits and risks of sun and UVB exposure.” There’s no information contrasting the benefits (and risks) of sun vs supplements. It just ends with the unsupported claim that vitamin D supplements are the solution, implying they provide all the benefits without any of the risk, ignoring the evidence he just discussed that sunlight may provide other benefits beyond vitamin D and with little discussion of the risks (e.g. poor regulation) or lack of benefits (e.g. poor bioactivity) of vitamin D supplements.

    Anyway, I haven’t seen a good sun exposure study yet. The usual conclusions, that we need to avoid any sun exposure like it’s equal to second-hand smoking, all seem to be based on stupid people getting obviously far too much UBV sun exposure from sunbathing or tanning salons.

    1. From the video on sun Vs supplements-

      -Price
      -Regulation in body (no risk of hypervitaminosis)
      -Regulation of levels in supplements (levels differ from claimed)
      -Additional benefits of sunlight not found in a supplement (e.g. CQ10 production)
      -Downsides of excesses sun exposure (not associated with supplementation)- specifically cataracts which considering most sunbed users wear eye protection…

      I therefore don’t think the title or conclusion was that poor, but appreciate your feedback!

  10. I am shocked at how few vitamin D supplements actually provide the amount they claim. Is there any way to know which brands are authentic in their claims?

    1. ConsumerLab.com is a paid service that tests out the content of most supplements. I am not a paid customer myself but they seem to be reliable and impartial.

      I buy all of my supplements through Amazon.com and so I check on the customer reviews. I make sure that the reviews are authentic and not written by the manufacturer itself. I have good and visible results from all supplements I use.

  11. The only natural choice is getting enough sunlight. I stay always tanned, even in winter, use a hat and sunglasses at peak hours. Never use sunblock because I don’t believe the largest organ of the body should be slathered in chemicals, many carcinogenic and gender-bending to be found in sunblock. I exercise every day and am vegan. At 54, no wrinkles or any health issues with nary a prescription medicine to be found under this roof – not even aspirin.

    The human body has been honed by millennia to perfection. Paler skin might need less sun exposure or darker skin more exposure, but we can all get enough without having to worry about skin cancer – if we get the right amount. That is where the research should focus: How much sun is enough for optimal Vit.D synthesis and not too much to cause skin damage and how exercise and nutrition and the Sun itself shields the individual from cellular damage.

    1. You make some good points and sound like you really care about your health which is great!

      However I think the issues surface with those that cannot/don’t get enough sun exposure, or seem to yet still have low levels.

      There are some sunscreens that have less toxic ingredients, but most are the zinc based which is a whole other topic!

      It’s a tough balance!

      I think the issue with your question will be individual variation and location! But would be great to know for sure!

      1. Thank you for responding! I feel the same way about people who choose not to get enough sun as those that choose to not get enough vegetables, that is, poor lifestyle choices are not an excuse, but a pathway to ill health. After all, like the good doc said, sunlight is free.

        I would encourage those that use sunblock to check the ingredient list against known harmful chemicals, as listed in the Environmental Working Group EWG.org, and others. Zinc is probably the least of our worries compared to endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. Zinc in nano form is worrisome, though, as are all nano chemicals and their unknown impact on our cells.

        I agree more research is paramount to provide more answers, but a recurring theme of not deviating too far from what evolution has shaped, that Nature rarely tolerates many of our modern substitutes, is as true for our lifestyle choices as it is for our food.

        1. I agree that we should all try to optimise our health, but what about those that work long hours indoors in countries like the UK. Sure, everyone could move to the tropics and work their own hours, but most people believe this is unrealistic and want another option. Not saying I agree…. but I don’t think it’s as easy a solution as say eating a plant-based diet. I can choose what goes in my mouth but I can’t make the sunshine after 8pm when I finish work for example….

          I think zinc based so far seems one of the better options I just want more research behind my opinion first!

          Exactly!

  12. I, too, don’t like the idea of slathering my skin in the chemicals in sunscreens. And the issue of skin cancer is worrisome to me as I work outdoors daily in the bright sunlight of the West. So I do my best to protect my skin from the inside out. I no longer have the link, but years ago I saw some research showing that consuming lycopene (highest source is tomato paste) protects the skin from burning in the sun. Think outside the box: tomato paste on bread in a sandwich, on grilled veggies; I paste it on eggplant slices, layer in a pan, throw enchilada sauce over it and bake as a casserole; eat cold on hot days.

    As well, researchers have found milk thistle to be skin protective:
    “A pair of University of Colorado Cancer Center studies published this month show that the milk thistle extract, silibinin, kills skin cells mutated by UVA radiation and protects against damage by UVB radiation – thus protecting against UV-induced skin cancer and photo-aging. ”
    And here is the link to the article:
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/255658.php

    Also, Fernblock is an oral pill from the Polypodium leucotomos fern which research shows is protective of UV radiation:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15583582

    You can also use Kabana skin care sun block which is not made from chemicals that ooze into your system through your skin (think nicotine patch, hormone patch, chemotherapy nausea patch). Read about their product here:
    http://kabanaskincare.com/

    1. Yes, eat lots of lycopene, beta-carotene and other carotenoids for UVA and UVB protection.

      Not sure about milk thistle and Phlebodium aureum pills – maybe if you already have skin disease, but I wouldn’t take them as an every-day supplement.

      You got it a little wrong on Kabana sun block. The chemicals will still enter your body through your skin, but they apparently only use chemicals that are safe to consume. I agree with their argument that you should only use chemicals on your body or clothes on a regular basis that you would be comfortable putting in your mouth, at least in small quantities. To make your own edible sunblock, all you need is zinc oxide (main source for zinc additives in food and supplements) and some plant oils, like coconut oil or shea butter. It’s better to just cover up or seek shade to prevent excessive exposure, but I guess someone out there will buy anything, like UV Body Wash… for when you bathe outside in full sun?

    2. There a few good sunscreens that are more ‘natural’… however many of them then are zinc based (+/- nano-particles).. which is a whole other discussion! It’s not an easy balance, though I feel the benefits of tomatoes, whether it infers any skin protection certainly won’t hurt! I’d just be cautious relying on products until there is more conclusive research. A good hat and protective clothing most of the day +/- sunblock and regular skin checks still seems safer…. annoying yes, but not as much as skin cancer…

    3. Definitely interested in research coming out about alternatives and treatment/protection options so thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  13. The conclusion should not be simply supplements, although I think they supplements should be used as an aid to get into the optimum range based on testing. There are too many positive benefits, many of which Dr. Greger touched upon, to not try to get some natural light. If not for Vitamins D, then for regulation of the circadian clock, and the positive mental effects of early day bright light exposure.

    Here is a long discussion with Dr. Panda of the Salk Insitute about his latest findings as related to circadian clocks, light exposure, and time-restricted feeding. Some of you might find interesting

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-R-eqJDQ2nU

    1. The greatest dilemma comes in though with those that do not get enough sunlight OR get plenty of sunlight and still test low. It’s a difficult one…

  14. I just read the whole discussion thread. People DO seem confused as if this is a cliffhanger and the title question was not really answered. In the first paragraph, Dr.G alludes to another video – “The Risks and Benefits of Sensible Sun Exposure”. But, when clicked on there is nothing there. Is this a 5 video series or 6 video series? Personally, I’m with Dr. McD – take NO Vitamin D and get limited amounts of sun exposure instead.

    1. Yep that video link is inserted in advance!

      The issue comes up when people either don’t get enough sunlight, OR get plenty and still have low levels….

    2. Thanks for letting me know not to mess around and watch this one. I’m sick of being led on and on. I decided that after the last video. SO I just started reading the comments here and now I know to wait. See y’all next week.

      1. As for the title, the video addresses sun Vs supplements as follows-

        -Price
        -Regulation in body (no risk of hypervitaminosis)
        -Regulation of levels in supplements (levels differ from claimed)
        -Additional benefits of sunlight not found in a supplement (e.g. CQ10 production)
        -Downsides of excesses sun exposure (not associated with supplementation)- specifically cataracts which considering most sun bed users wear eye protection…

        I therefore don’t think the title or conclusion was that poor, but appreciate your feedback!

        1. I do wear polarized sunglasses every day I’m out there, sometimes when cloudy. Some do think that this helps. I can FEEL the difference in polarized and non-polarized sunglasses.

          Thanks for the synopsis.

      2. Wade, I didn’t mean to imply that this vid is a waste of time. It was still interesting and showcased some valuable information. It just didn’t definitively answer the question posed in the title

        1. vegcoach it does. Last sentence is–“If only there was a way to raise D levels without risking cancer. There is: vitamin D supplements.”

      3. Wade there is a conclusion. He is pretty clear that the risk of sun exposure and/or tanning beds is not worth it. Here is the last sentence in the video. Sometimes reading the comments can send us in the wrong direction.
        “If only there was a way to raise D levels without risking cancer. There is: vitamin D supplements.”

        1. I work out of doors for a paycheck. So I’ll continue to get lots of D that way. I don’t fully trust the chemicals in sunscreens, so I use them sparingly. I do trust our better diets to help reduce the risks of sun exposure.

          I’ll watch the rest of the D-series when it is OVER. I naturally bing watch TV shows and videos anyway. When this one is done, I’ll catch the last two or three in a row.

          The reason I have a sack of D3 and one of B12 is because I participate here. I’m not taking either one now, because I’m getting plenty of both from other sources-according to my estimation.

          1. Aww. Good thing. Where are you getting your B12? Nutritional yeast? Oh wait. Maybe I remember you eat some fish and eggs? I was surprised to see I was low in D because besides running I love to garden. I wasn’t supplementing either until 2 months ago. This will be a good experiment.

            1. I eat WFPB all week long and have some “variations” from that on the weekend, often just a few servings, but sometimes more. So I get enough AP to keep my B12 in check. PLUS I have some B12 on hand and take a little now and then, just to be sure.

              Most of my animal products are from game/fish I procure and process. I quit eggs almost completely, despite having free-range farm eggs available for no cost. I ate those for years. It’s 1,000 wonders I didn’t kill myself already with how I used to eat.

  15. What about taking Astaxanthin instead of sun screen or to at least lessen it use as most have aluminum in them. Being Blonde and blue eyed with fair skin I would burn to point of blisters when I was younger with minimal less than 30mins exposure if not slathered with sunscreen. As an adult I did not burn as bad but still did sometime fairly bad being a triathlete I was out in the sun quite a bit. Six years ago I started taking Astaxanthin as no longer burn as a result.

    1. Glad you posted this. I have been taken astaxanthin for about 3 years, and I wasn’t for sure what it was suppose to do for me, except that it is suppose to be the ultimate antioxidant on the planet. Now, that I think about it, I too, am able to stay out in the sun with no sun burn or discomfort. Maybe, it is due to the astaxanthin. By the way, I used to take a lot of astaxanthin. I have cut down on it since I became a vegan following the idea that if you are a vegan you don’t really need to take supplements. But, maybe, I’ll revert back to a daily use of astaxanthin since I do spend a lot of time in the sun.

    2. Interesting case study! Have you seen any research about it?

      I agree though, it’s frustrating so many sunscreens put unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients in them! There are definitely some aluminium free sunscreens though, and some that minimise ‘harmful’ ingredients too! Many of these are zinc based though which is a whole other discussion though (nano-particles and the like!)

      I’m looking up Astaxanthin now as I’m curious!! I burn easy and don’t like wearing sunscreen all that much!

    3. Astaxanthin, or more common carotenoids like lycopene and beta carotene all help in preventing sunburn. Most cost effective is tomato sauces, so pasta & marinara are almost daily in summer for me.

  16. Well, I go to the dermatologist a couple times a year to get squamous cell carcinoma and actinic keratosis removed – best we can figure from sun exposure. Some of the sunburns may have been decades ago, but at 81 I figure my body is less able to deal with current sunburns too. So I do get some sun from bicycle rides and working in the yard but not much, and considering this is New Hampshire much of the year I’m all covered up. So we do 2,000 IU Vitamin D3 in two liquid caps. D3 is what the skin makes. Many processed foods add D2 which isn’t much use to the body. Humans came from Africa where sun exposure is a given.

    1. You have SCCs multiple times a year? Not BCCs? That’s rough either way! As one living in Australia I can appreciate it can be a hard balance between exposure and sun damage!

      Even though we cannot take back prior sun exposure, at 81 and working in the garden, cycling, internet-savy and reading nutritionfacts.org I think you are making some good choices for health though! Good for you for changing the things you can!

      Whilst it does seem D3 is more potent/effective/natural, I don’t think the evidence yet shows D2 completely useless…

  17. I’ve seen a skin cross section diagram showing a bit of melanin in the skin just above a tower of capillaries. That’s to protect the folate in the blood from being degraded by UV. We eat lots of veggies as did our forbear foragers so folate was not a problem for them. What good is folate? Among many other virtues, people with folic acid in the lower 30% in blood levels have 330% times greater risk of Alzheimer’s. Folic acid pills don’t work – it’s just a measurable indicator of low veggies in the diet. For more see “The China Study” by prof. T. Colin Campbell.

    1. Also, I believe it’s folate levels in the body, not folic acid. Folic acid is the term given to the synthetic compound, folate is what is in the food and the body, just for clarity :)

  18. Hold up… Am I the only one who heard that half of vitamin D supplements don’t even have 10% of what is claimed? So do the other 50% have 100% of what is claimed? I’m confused and what brand should I buy. I currently am taking now brand…

    1. If you watch the video again to the part where there is a list of different Vitamin D brands and the annual costs of them, please pause there and read the details, it says that all fulfilled the requirements i.e. meeting the label claims.
      So for example Trader Joe’s was the cheapest per year at $10.15 (for 2x 180) and in the lab test it proved to be correct.
      The 50% not being within 10% of the labeled dose means: supplement states 1,000 IU but one had maybe 1,120 IU and one had maybe 890 IU, both of these examples were NOT within 10% of the labeled amount.
      Greetings, Daniel

  19. I would like to hear about Vitamin D lamps that emit UVB rather than UVA. Sperti is an example. What does Dr Gregor think about them?

  20. I think that the Zinc/Copper ratio is very important in mental health. I think people take zinc for Autism not knowing that too much zinc can cause autism, possibly. Low blood levels of Zinc could mean the body has low reserves, or the body is trying to store it because there is evidence that too much zinc can cause certain cancers. Does the body get electrons from Copper and something else, like protons from Zinc? It is very important to get these minerals in balance and supplementation might not be the right answer. Electrons and positrons running health from atoms. I thank Dr. Greger for my improved health and mood.

    1. Darryl: Ooh, this is so helpful! Do you have any opinions/research on full spectrum light bulbs? The kind people use for seasonal affect disorder (or whatever it is called). I’m wondering if I put a bulb like that in my bathroom while I take a shower (and does it matter that the light fixture has a partially opaque glass cover), would that affect my vitamin D levels in a good way? Without too much harm??? Any thoughts?
      .
      (I hope I’m not asking what was already covered in the video. It seemed to me like the video was covering special light bulbs that emit only part of the sunlight spectrum. But I’m not clear on that.)

      1. Sunburn, that’s different then slowly increasing melanin over time with short duration exposure so the skin does not burn. This is the safe way to tan.

        1. Fragments of DNA is what triggers melanogenesis. That is what causes UV tanning. Tanning without sunburn is because of the reduced the amount of damage.

  21. My doctor has given me a prescription for Vitamin D3 50,000 IU. I am to take one pill a week for eight (8) weeks. Are there any studies that recommend mega doses of Vitamin D3? What are the health effects of doses at this level?

    1. There are many studies of vitamin D supplementation at various doses for various conditions. The Mayo Clinic website describes/summarises these studies.
      You may want to look there for further info.

  22. I think this video, while interesting, is not providing a balanced look at risk of cancer from sun exposure. The start was good, but the way it ended was disappointing.

    Key improvements to this video would include:
    1. analysis of risks for people who do not exceed the required amount of sun exposure to produce healthy levels of vitamin D;
    2. distinguishing between the vast majority of skin cancers, which are not life-threatening vs those that are;
    3. analysis of different skin types (i.e. different melanin levels) – unfortunately, most discussions of skin cancer are biased toward white people – but most people in the world are not white! And even white people have a broad spectrum of responses.

    1. You are assuming that there is good evidence available on these points. I am not sure that there is. Dr G can only discuss what is known from the existing research base.
      But I agree that these are all relevant and important issues.

      1. My understanding is that there is a lot of information on these topics, though what constitutes “good evidence” is open to interpretation.

        There is more to sunlight than vitamin D as suggested by the following article:
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/

        Under the section “Other Sun-Dependent Pathways” you can read about the following topics:
        1- Direct immune suppression
        2- Alpha melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH)
        3- Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)
        4- Neuropeptide substance P
        5- Endorphins

        1. Thanks. I agree that sunshine is more than just a catalyst for vitamin d production.
          However, this site is about nutrition and the more that sunshine (and health) is discussed, the more off-topic we get. That is why I was uncomfortable with your criticism of a video for not going into more detail on non-nutritional points. Also, as I wrote, I am not sure that there is a lot of good evidence on the specific points you raised anyway. I might well be wrong of course but I have not seen it.

  23. Im a bit confused. So is Doc Greger saying of the many options to get vitamin D taking the supplements is now the safest way? If one still chooses to get it from the sun, is the best time now before 10am and after 4pm. I made this assumption becoz i saw this info in the background research supporting the video. Previous videos of Doc Greger was suggesting the time between 10am to 4pm,gives u the best bang as long as you stay out for a maximum of 30 min only.

  24. Very good Doctor thank you although I remember Dr Mc Dougal saying at a conference something negative about Vitamin D (kidney stone risk? I forgot..)

    1. Exactly that. When my sister supplemented for the first time with vitamin D after a hip replacement, she developed painfull kidney stones which is par for the course. After she stopped they went away for good.

      As I am a senior citizen I remember clearly the family of 8 my mother came from and the resulting families of of her siblings being 25 never taking supplements and none of them need them in older age. None of them suffer with cancer from getting their vitamin D from the sun.

  25. The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun and no one needs to burn themselves in doing so. The quacks that suggest there is no safe tan haven’t taken into account that we are designed to take in a certain amount of sunlight for our health.

    Carcinogenic ingredients in sun bloc, is to skin, what hydrogenated fats are too your heart, and a massive money making con.

    As for supplements, I have never used any in my life and don’t intend to while there is the sun and real food; so can’t say, but would love to see a peer reviewed study on the efficacy of vitamin D supplements. Not industry funded, so the truth may be told.

    1. Why don’t you check out some of the sources cited in this and previous videos? I thought that the Chowdhury meta analysis referenced by the previous video offered food for thought.

        1. That is a letter not a peer reviewed study.

          Also, it is behind a paywall so it is not possible to see anything beyond the title and the first few lines of the letter. It hardly constitutes a compelling argument – especially if there is no evidence of harm and it merely disputes whether there is evidence of benefit. The actual meta analysis and review found a mortality benefit from D3 supplementation and that is freely available for people to read. there is also a Medscape article that is worth reading.

          http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g1903?trendmd-shared=0
          http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/829677?src=trendmd_pilot&trendmd-shared=1

    2. You are such a quack, you believe the sun and “real food” are some sort of magical things. Food as you know it right now is completely different than what it was thousands of years ago. Also sun damages your skin and ages you faster, you hippie.

  26. Great discussion everyone! The final installment of Dr. G’s new vitamin D series is coming soon – The Risks and Benefits of Sensible Sun Exposure. Stay tuned!

  27. You can get UV-B “lizard lights” at any pet store. I have one in my bathroom, in the hopes that a few minutes a day will help with my eczema (no signs of improvement so far, after 6 months).

  28. I use coconut cold pressed oil before i go in the sun in Summer , just have common sense don’t over expose your skin to hot sun . wear hat and long sleeves if out in the hot sun too long .The sun heals your body but will also kill you .

  29. What if, like for vitamin A, E, supplementing D isn’t the solution? Whole food instead of supplements, sun instead of supplementing D? Do vitamin D supplements really work in the same way sun does without risks? Sun is much more than vitamin D and a lack of sun fearing skin cancer could bring us in other trouble. What about the study about UVA lowering blood pressure for example? “UVA irradiation of human skin vasodilates arterial vasculature and lowers blood pressure independently of nitric oxide synthase,” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, doi: 10.1038/jid.2014.27, 2014.

    In addition, regular sun exposure causes less skin cancer than sun exposure in high dosis just in vacation. Maybe we must find a better balance.
    Waiting for more news on Vitamin D research and sun exposure!

  30. Eh, never a fan when the conclusion is supplements. Not my favorite video Dr. Greger. How about just….you know…spending a moderate amount of time in the sun? I haven’t done enough research myself, but it seems there should be a line between healthy vitD in the sun and cellular damage leading to cancer.

    1. I actually didn’t take that as the end conclusion about getting vitamin d in general, but rather as him saying that supplements were safer than people relying on tanning beds to get vitamin d. That was my take. To me it sounds like he was basically saying what you’re saying and just laying out the published research.

      I have a lot of issues with what I call “the sun scare” and just commented on it on another post. Instead of repeating things I’ll just be lazy and paste it lol:

      Great points. Also, how many truck drivers have you seen or even perhaps known, and how many of them have ever looked like the guy in the photo? And how many life long truck drivers are there in the U.S alone? Why only one example of this phenomenon? I couldn’t find much info on this guy. There is so much money to be made by the sunscreen industry, they even have their pamphlets of spf clothing lines in dermatologists offices. Plus there’s the supplement companies profiting off of people relying on them over nature. You hear it all the time on blogs or internet articles now, literally creating “deficiencies” in something like MSM or silica and purposefully panicking people making sure they add in how our bodies just don’t absorb this or that from food or some other nonsense (I’m super impressed with our ancestors for surviving without supplements all those years considering… lol) so therefore one must supplement. Well, after lots of research, the same scare tactics seem to be going on about the sun. I call it “the sun scare.”

      Based on everything I’ve read, all the paranoid blogs even sometimes by dermatologists (often dermatologists selling their own sun protection lines), if half of what they were saying were accurate, not only would most of the people I know have some pretty serious skin cancer by now, but they’d also look like poorly aged 90 year olds… but they don’t.

      Note that Dr. Greger says “over exposure” can cause damage, which makes sense. The other stuff out there about how we should “wear long sleeves even in the summer, wear layers even in the summer with wide brim hats and sun glasses and an spf 30 or higher even under your clothes even in the winter even if you’re only going out for a few minutes and reapply every 2 hours or more if you sweat” (sadly I’m NOT even exaggerating) is obvious propaganda, but it works. It works so well.

      As for skin cancer and sun screen, a lot of the chemicals in sun screens have been linked to skin damage and cancer and in parts of the world where they’re wearing the most sun screen, they’re getting the most skin cancer.

      As for skin damage, I think nature let’s us know pretty well what’s going on. It makes sense that burning is a sign that you’re baking too much in the sun. Also, the more toxins you have in your body, the more negatively your skin will react to the sun as the sun actually draws out toxins to the surface of the skin which can cause dark spots. At least that’s what I’ve read in I believe The Science Times, and what I’ve heard from others who read about this stuff.

      Lastly, after watching this and his video on coQ10, it sounds like the sun does some pretty AMAZING things to our bodies when our bodies are being nurtured the way nature intended and not flooded with toxins from an unnatural diet. If there’s all this stuff going on just with the chlorophyll from plants in our bodies in reaction to the sun (talked about in the video I just mentioned), imagine what other great things may be going on. It’s cool to think about. I think trusting in nature and common sense always tends to be the bottom line, but there is a lot of propaganda to stiff through along the way because there is a lot of money being made off of scaring the crap out of all of us :(

  31. Can I be in sun and then eat greens within a certain amount of time? Or how long after eating greens is the sun effectively producing vit D?

  32. It’s hard for me to believe long-term, frequent sun exposure is a bad thing, assuming you don’t burn. Considering that’s how we evolved. Do these studies take into account the antioxidant intake, etc.? That truck driver was probably exposed to sun with Big Gulps and Slim Jims circulating his bloodstream. People are hardly ever in the sun, wear sunscreen constantly yet skin cancer has increased 200% since the early 1900’s. You can get skin cancer on the bottom of your foot where sun doesn’t even shine, known as acrolentiginous melanoma. I don’t know… Just my thoughts.

    1. Great points. Also, how many truck drivers have you seen or even perhaps known, and how many of them have ever looked like the guy in the photo? And how many life long truck drivers are there in the U.S alone? Why only one example of this phenomenon? I couldn’t find much info on this guy. There is so much money to be made by the sunscreen industry, they even have their pamphlets of spf clothing lines in dermatologists offices. Plus there’s the supplement companies profiting off of people relying on them over nature. You hear it all the time on blogs or internet articles now, literally creating “deficiencies” in something like MSM or silica and purposefully panicking people making sure they add in how our bodies just don’t absorb this or that from food or some other nonsense (I’m super impressed with our ancestors for surviving without supplements all those years considering… lol) so therefore one must supplement. Well, after lots of research, the same scare tactics seem to be going on about the sun. I call it “the sun scare.”
      Based on everything I’ve read, all the paranoid blogs even sometimes by dermatologists (often dermatologists selling their own sun protection lines), if half of what they were saying were accurate, not only would most of the people I know have some pretty serious skin cancer by now, but they’d also look like poorly aged 90 year olds… but they don’t.
      Note that Dr. Greger says “over exposure” can cause damage, which makes sense. The other stuff out there about how we should “wear long sleeves even in the summer, wear layers even in the summer with wide brim hats and sun glasses and an spf 30 or higher even under your clothes even in the winter even if you’re only going out for a few minutes” (sadly I’m NOT even exaggerating) is obvious propaganda, but it works. It works so well.
      As for skin cancer and sun screen, a lot of the chemicals in sun screens have been linked to skin damage and cancer and in parts of the world where they’re wearing the most sun screen, they’re getting the most skin cancer.
      As for skin damage, I think nature let’s us know pretty well what’s going on. It makes sense that burning is a sign that you’re baking too much in the sun. Also, the more toxins you have in your body, the more negatively your skin will react to the sun as the sun actually draws out toxins to the surface of the skin which can cause dark spots. At least that’s what I’ve read in I believe The Science Times, and what I’ve heard from others who read about this stuff.
      Lastly, after watching this and his video on coQ10, it sounds like the sun does some pretty AMAZING things to our bodies when our bodies are being nurtured the way nature intended and not flooded with toxins from an unnatural diet. If there’s all this stuff going on just with the chlorophyll from plants in our bodies in reaction to the sun (talked about in the video I just mentioned), imagine what other great things may be going on. It’s cool to think about. I think trusting in nature and common sense always tends to be the bottom line, but there is a lot of propaganda to stiff through along the way because there is a lot of money being made off of scaring the crap out of all of us :(

    2. Great points. Also, how many truck drivers have you seen or even perhaps known, and how many of them have ever looked like the guy in the photo? And how many life long truck drivers are there in the U.S alone? Why only one example of this phenomenon? I couldn’t find much info on this guy. There is so much money to be made by the sunscreen industry, they even have their pamphlets of spf clothing lines in dermatologists offices. Plus there’s the supplement companies profiting off of people relying on them over nature. You hear it all the time on blogs or internet articles now, literally creating “deficiencies” in something like MSM or silica and purposefully panicking people making sure they add in how our bodies just don’t absorb this or that from food or some other nonsense (I’m super impressed with our ancestors for surviving without supplements all those years considering… lol) so therefore one must supplement. Well, after lots of research, the same scare tactics seem to be going on about the sun. I call it “the sun scare.”

      Based on everything I’ve read, all the paranoid blogs even sometimes by dermatologists (often dermatologists selling their own sun protection lines), if half of what they were saying were accurate, not only would most of the people I know have some pretty serious skin cancer by now, but they’d also look like poorly aged 90 year olds… but they don’t.

      Note that Dr. Greger says “over exposure” can cause damage, which makes sense. The other stuff out there about how we should “wear long sleeves even in the summer, wear layers even in the summer with wide brim hats and sun glasses and an spf 30 or higher even under your clothes even in the winter even if you’re only going out for a few minutes and reapply every 2 hours or more if you sweat” (sadly I’m NOT even exaggerating) is obvious propaganda, but it works. It works so well.

      As for skin cancer and sun screen, a lot of the chemicals in sun screens have been linked to skin damage and cancer and in parts of the world where they’re wearing the most sun screen, they’re getting the most skin cancer.

      As for skin damage, I think nature let’s us know pretty well what’s going on. It makes sense that burning is a sign that you’re baking too much in the sun. Also, the more toxins you have in your body, the more negatively your skin will react to the sun as the sun actually draws out toxins to the surface of the skin which can cause dark spots. At least that’s what I’ve read in I believe The Science Times, and what I’ve heard from others who read about this stuff.

      Lastly, after watching this and his video on coQ10, it sounds like the sun does some pretty AMAZING things to our bodies when our bodies are being nurtured the way nature intended and not flooded with toxins from an unnatural diet. If there’s all this stuff going on just with the chlorophyll from plants in our bodies in reaction to the sun (talked about in the video I just mentioned), imagine what other great things may be going on. It’s cool to think about. I think trusting in nature and common sense always tends to be the bottom line, but there is a lot of propaganda to sift through along the way because there is a lot of money being made off of scaring the crap out of all of us :(

  33. Mods,

    What is a reputable vitamin D supplement? How about Algae oil?

    My D is low, and I want to supplement, but I’ve seen the video that reveals that a lot of the supplements out don’t contain what the label says they do.

  34. Does Dr. Greger support the use of a Vitamin D supplement? Another physician listed on Greger’s website, Dr. McDougall, thinks a Vitamin D supplement is harmful. This conflicting information is an example of the misinformation/confusing information out there. If possible, can Dr. Greger address this?

    1. Hi Jay! I’m a volunteer moderator helping to answer questions on the NutritionFacts.org site. In Dr. Greger’s book, How Not to Die, on page 408 he writes: ” I recommend that people unable to get sufficient sun take one 2,000 IU vitamin D3 supplement each day, ideally with the largest meal of the day.” The book goes on to talk more specifically about the recommendation. I hope this helps!

  35. I,000 year old Viking remains reveal very strong bones and teeth. They got vitamin d from sun only three months out of the year. They got a lot of exercise from the hard work of making boats and rowing them all over Europe every summer. Their boats were not able to crash through ice so they could only do trading and raiding in the summer. There should be an easier way to develop strong bones.

  36. Okay no one is talking about being a truck driver so the skin damage analogy hardly seems relevant. If all we need is 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure a day during our Peak seasons and hours to last us through the year, and if that is all we get, is it likely that my skin is going to age severely?

    I guess the videos on vitamin D here are leaving me a bit confused because I’m looking for an answer as to what I need to do. And maybe this is because there is no absolute solution given all the variables between where people live, how much fat their body has, what kind of diet there on, how sensitive their skin may be from one person to another, etc.

  37. Jeff, You are correct concluding that there are no simple answers with Vitamin D. This is a complex issue and the answer may vary from one person to the next. You are wise to learn what the science has to say and then determine what is the best response for you. For many, as Dr. Greger has indicated supplementation is appropriate. this video may be helpful if you haven’t already viewed it: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-much-vitamin-d-should-you-take/

  38. My 17 year old son is having a problem with sun exposure. When he steps outside on a sunny day he gets a headache and then diarrhea. He has had stomach biopsy and urine test to check for carcinoid, bloodwork, etc. and all is normal. Does anyone have an understanding as to what is happening? Thank you.

  39. Hi J. Bavoso and thanks for your question. I am sorry to hear about the problems that your son is experiencing. Have migraines been considered? While it is unclear what is causing his symptoms, adopting a whole food plant based diet will minimize/eliminate exposure to processed foods and preservatives which wreak havoc on our bodies. That might be a place to start while you continue to investigate the cause with his doctor. Best of luck to you.

    1. Thank you for your question. From what I can see about the Sperti Vitamin D box is that it omits UVB rays (needed to make vitamin D) rather than the more harmful UVA rays used in tanning. However, UVB has also been implicated in skin cancer development so I would suggest using with caution and using only if you can not get natural sunlight in the way Dr Greger recommends. This device is however FDA approved

  40. After watching several of these great Vitamin D videos and reading a lot of the comments, I realize that a lot of variables factor into how much Vitamin D can be received from sun exposure, but I had a couple Qs I’d love to ask… Since I wear business attire most days, is just my face, neck and hand exposure sufficient during my outside walks or should I try bringing a change of clothes or even short-sleeved shirts to help in this process? Sorry if this is a dumb Q, but does there have to be direct skin exposure to get Vitamin D from the sun’s rays or can some of it still reach the skin through certain clothing? Lastly, for those of us who experience all 4 seasons in a year, are certain times of the day more beneficial than others for “best” times to sunbathe? MANY thanks for this great site!!

    1. Hi Ryan – My name’s Janelle and I’m a health support volunteer for NutritionFacts.org. Thank you for your question! In order for vitamin D to be produced, the sunlight must directly reach our skin. And the more skin you expose, the more Vitamin D your body will produce. Rolling up your sleeves or bringing a change of clothes can help with process by exposing more bare skin. Being out in the sun during the middle of the day is when our skin can produce the most vitamin D. However, during those winter months you may want to consider taking a daily 2000 IU vitamin D supplement. Check out Dr. Greger’s video here on vitamin D supplementation – https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-much-vitamin-d-should-you-take/

      1. How much time in the sun is “sensible exposure”??? I can NOT find this information in any article or video. I keep getting directed around in a circle.

        1. It depends on your latitude, cloud cover, time of day, and skin pigmentation. Other factors can be involved as well. Here in Hawaii, at noon, I get 5-7 minutes of direct sun exposure on each side, several times per week. I only wear swim trunks. I’m Caucasian. My vitamin D is about 44 ng/ml now which is good (up from 20 which was insufficient). I’m quite white and end up with a slight tan with this exposure. This is not good. Tanning indicates skin damage so I should cut back. Best to discuss with your doctor and get tested so you can get just enough sun to get your serum vitamin D levels into the optimum range.

          Dr. Ben

  41. What about soaking mushrooms in the sun for a few hours and getting D2 by eating them? I read a study that says this is as effective as D3 supplements.

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