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Children do not get enough sunshine

Posted on: October 21, 2011   by  John Cannell, MD


In the 1980s, the dermatologists told us to avoid the sun, and to be especially careful to make sure children avoid unprotected sun exposure. However, I missed the part where they said, “By the way, if your kids are not going in the sun, they will need to take vitamin D supplements to compensate for what their skin is not making.” Nowhere have I read such advice, only that children should never let a ray of sunshine strike their unprotected skin and somehow the kids will still make enough vitamin D.

I found no moderation, as we naturally do with water, for example, where we know 8 glasses a day are fine but 80 glasses a day will kill you. The dermatologists could have simply warned about childhood sunburn, the condition that clearly had a relationship to the fatal skin cancer, melanoma. No, instead it was radical advice, the cosmetic and sunscreen companies funding the dermatologists insisted, “Tell the mothers to stop all unprotected sun exposure in their kids.”

As a result, we now know that at least 20% more children are severely vitamin D deficient now than 10 years ago. We don’t know what children’s vitamin D levels were like in the 1960s, when “sunshine and fresh air” was the maternal mantra and coconut butter and baby oil were all that were on sale in drugstores if you were going to the beach. We do know that the autism, asthma, and autoimmune disorders pandemics had yet to strike the USA, despite the filthy air and polluted water of the 1960s.

Now, in August of 2011, Dr. Dianne Godar of the FDA and colleagues have attempted to find out if the dermatologists are correct when they claim children do get all the vitamin D they need from casual sun exposure. First, children vary widely in the number of minutes they play outside, even in the summer. Some never leave the video game monitor in the basement all their waking hours.

Godar DE, Pope SJ, Grant WB, Holick MF. Solar UV Doses of Young Americans and Vitamin D3 Production. Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Aug 18.

The authors conclude that most children do not spend enough time outdoors, even in the summer, to obtain adequate vitamin D, and they point to a recent study that found more than 50% of children in a southern state (Georgia) had levels lower than 30 ng/ml. The authors finish by saying,

“In conclusion, our estimates suggest that many children may not get enough sun exposure to meet their minimum daily vitamin D requirements.”

Actually, you can see that for yourself. One Saturday afternoon, go to a neighborhood were many children live and look for yourself. The sidewalks and streets are almost deserted, and you can bet that the few moms who let their kids outside in the sunshine lathered them from head to toe with sunblock. With all the illnesses and disorders our children are plagued with, who is going to charge the dermatologists?

1 Response to Children do not get enough sunshine

  1. Matt Rhodes

    “The dermatologists could have simply warned about childhood sunburn, the condition that clearly had a relationship to the fatal skin cancer, melanoma. ”

    Everybody says sunburn causes melanoma, but it’s not true. Sunburn leads to basal cell & squamous cell skin cancer which are slow growing, easier to treat (use a paste of vitamin C!) & seldom fatal. Melanoma usually occurs on parts of the body that don’t get frequent sun exposure. Here’s a quote from pg 11 of “Your Best Health Under The Sun” by Jon Herring & Dr. Al Sears:

    “In the February 2, 2005 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a study confirmed that exposure to the sun reduces the risk of skin cancer. Additional studies have shown that lifeguards in Australia have the lowest rates of melanoma. The group that had the highest incidence was office workers.”

    I doubt that many dermatologists are aware of that study, though.

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