Sonoma County OB/GYN

Sunscreen use now implicated in widespread vitamin D deficiency

Results from a clinical review find nearly 1 billion people worldwide may have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D due to chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure related to sunscreen use.

Results from a clinical review published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association find nearly 1 billion people worldwide may have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D due to chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure related to sunscreen use.

The study also found that 95 percent of African American adults may have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. Vitamin D variations among races are attributed to differences in skin pigmentation.

“People are spending less time outside and, when they do go out, they’re typically wearing sunscreen, which essentially nullifies the body’s ability to produce vitamin D,” said Kim Pfotenhauer, DO, assistant professor at Touro University and a researcher on this study. “While we want people to protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D.”

Dr. Pfotenhauer also said chronic diseases like Type 2 Diabetes and those related to malabsorption, including kidney disease, Crohn’s and celiac disease greatly inhibit the body’s ability to metabolize vitamin D from food sources.

Considered a hormone rather than a vitamin, vitamin D is produced when skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D receptors are found in virtually every cell in the human body. As a result, it plays a wide role in the body’s functions, including cell growth modulation, neuromuscular and immune function and inflammation reduction.

Symptoms for insufficient or deficient vitamin D include muscle weakness and bone fractures. People exhibiting these symptoms or who have chronic diseases known to decrease vitamin D, should have their levels checked and, if found to be low, discuss treatment options. However, universal screening is likely neither necessary nor prudent absent significant symptoms or chronic disease.

Increasing and maintaining healthy vitamin D levels can be as easy as spending 5-30 minutes in midday sun twice per week. The appropriate time depends on a person’s geographic location and skin pigmentation — lighter skin synthesizes more vitamin D than darker skin. It is important to forgo sunscreen during these sessions because SPF 15 or greater decreases vitamin D3 production by 99 percent.

“You don’t need to go sunbathing at the beach to get the benefits,” said Dr. Pfotenhauer. “A simple walk with arms and legs exposed is enough for most people.”

Food sources such as milk, breakfast cereals, and Portobello mushrooms are also fortified with vitamin D. Dr. Pfotenhauer said supplements are a good option, as they are effective and pose few risks, provided they are taken as directed and a physician is consulted beforehand.

Research is ongoing to determine whether vitamin D deficiency has a role in multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, infections, respiratory disease, cardiometabolic disease, cancer, and fracture risk.

“Science has been trying to find a one-to-one correspondence between vitamin D levels and specific diseases,” said Dr. Pfotenhauer. “Given vitamin D’s ubiquitous role in the body, I believe sufficient vitamin D is more about overall health. Our job as osteopathic physicians is to recognize those patients that need to be tested and treat them accordingly.”

Currently, insufficiency is defined as between 21 and 30 ng/ml and deficiency is considered below 20ng/ml by the Endocrine Society.


Story Source: Materials provided by American Osteopathic Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Read this article on Science Daily: American Osteopathic Association. “Widespread vitamin D deficiency likely due to sunscreen use, increase of chronic diseases, review finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170501102258.htm.

May is the Month for Women – A good time to focus on Women’s Health

In honor of Mother’s Day and National Women’s Health Week Dr. Lela Emad of Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group offers timely insights for staying healthy.

With the goal of empowering women to make health a priority, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office celebrates National Women’s Health Week beginning on May 14th – which is also Mother’s Day. This weeklong event is offered to encourage women to take steps to improve health with a focus on annual screenings, lifestyle choices and prevention.

“It is certainly important for women to be vigilant about testing for conditions that are most successfully treated when caught early, including breast cancer and colon cancer. And, another good way to stay healthy is to have routine check-ups to screen for the basic health concerns,” says Dr. Lela Emad obstetrician & gynecologist. “Heart disease is still the top killer of women in the U.S. therefore it is equally important for women to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels and to be aware of any potential for diabetes.”

Life expectancy in the U.S. for women now averages a full eight decades – barring accidents or major health issues. With all that living to look forward to, it’s a good idea to adopt healthy habits as early in life as possible. A look at the trends to better health reveals that there are some very simple ways to optimize health, and make life worth living.

Schedule an Appointment

One important step consists of scheduling a visit to a healthcare provider for a well-woman checkup that includes preventive screenings. Health professionals recommend adolescent girls and women start routine, annual gynecologic visits around the age of 14 unless otherwise indicated by their general practitioners. These important checkups give women an opportunity to discuss both gynecologic and general health concerns. This type of screening can include the following:

  • Blood pressure, Height, Weight
  • Lipid Panel (cholesterol and triglycerides)
  • Breast Cancer Screening
  • Cervical Cancer Screening
  • A hemoglobin test, an indicator for anemic
  • Pap & HPV tests

Exercise – Be more active!

Sitting for prolonged periods at a desk or in front of the computer may be a necessity for many a woman’s livelihood, but it’s not good for the body. Research shows that women who sit for more than six hours a day have a 40 percent higher risk of dying from any cause when compared to women who sit for fewer than three hours—regardless of their fitness levels.

Exercise is hands-down the best thing both men and women can do to improve health. And the best way to get fit and stay fit is to get moving. Exercise increases energy and releases endorphins—which in turn increases a person’s happiness quotient. Several recent studies indicate that staying active is associated with a longer life expectancy.

Exercise doesn’t need to be drudgery, a good way to incorporate a routine that endures the test of time is to choose activities that are fun. Simply going for a 20-minute walk with a friend is extremely beneficial to overall healthfulness. Just 2.5 hours weekly (about 20 minutes a day) of moderate aerobic exercise such as walking provides all the major health benefits a body needs to stay healthy.

Eating for Life

Research proves that eating more fresh vegetables is one of the simplest way to improve overall healthfulness. A vegetable-rich diet can help protect the body from arthritis, heart disease, stroke, dementia and a variety of cancers – and it might also slow down the aging process. In fact, one study found that people who consume at least seven portions of fresh vegetables and fruit each day have as much as 42 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, compared to those who eat one portion or less.

Breast Health

Routine breast exams and general awareness of how to maintain breast health are important elements in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for women. Screening methods such as regular self-breast exams, breast checks during routine gynecologic exams, and screening mammographies can all help to detect breast problems early-on.

For National Women’s Health Week, the office of Women’s Health US Dept. of Health & Human Services also recommends that women pay attention to mental health, get plenty of sleep and take steps every day to manage stress. And, of course avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, texting while driving, and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.

About Women’s OBGYN Medical Group

The provider team of expert OB/GYN physicians, certified nurse midwives, family nurse practitioners, and medical assistants provides unmatched care to patients in our region. As women proudly serving women, we understand the needs and expectations of our patients. For more information call (707) 579-1102 or visit the Women’s OB/GYN website.