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Sunshine for the elderly: To expose or not to expose?

Posted on: July 23, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


In a provocative paper, Professor Hartmut Glossmann of the University of Innsbruck in Austria recommends that the elderly expose themselves to moderate regular sun exposure as often as possible during seasons when the sun is high in the sky.

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10 Responses to Sunshine for the elderly: To expose or not to expose?

  1. Rebecca Oshiro

    The nitric oxide and beta-endorphin release upon exposure to UV radiation are yet two more benefits that can’t be found in a pill.

  2. [email protected]

    My understanding is that as you age your ability to make vitamin D in the skin is drastically reduced. I would appreciate some more data on this. I am 72.

  3. [email protected]

    Seniors, particularly those living in urban areas, are unlikely to go out for a walk under the sun with body skin exposed. Furthermore, it is probable that their skin cannot process the Sun Rays as younger skins. Seniors probably also have a decreased capacity to metabolise the oral Vitamin D3 pills. All these factors taken into consideration, I wonder what would be the normal dose of daily oral Vitamin D that schould recommended for seniors.

  4. John Cannell, MD

    The elderly can still make plenty of vitamin D. I am 64 and know that for a fact. Different studies show different rates of decline with age but it is still substantial at age 80. I always recommend supplements before sun exposure so that the skin is protected by a high 25(OH)D level. For example, the elderly should take 5,000 IU/day for several months before regular, full body, sun exposure. Or 10,000 IU/day for a month before such sun exposure.

  5. [email protected]

    I am 78 years old. Although my skin seems not produce much vitamin D any more, I live in Portland OR, and after a winter/spring of gloom, literally hunger for warm sunlight. Now that “summer” is here, I expose myself at poolside as often as possible, developing a tan. I cut back to 5,000 units of D3 during summer sun, otherwise I take 10,000 units daily. I test about every two months, and my levels have stabilized at around 60-70 25(OH)D level. There is definitely more to the sun than just vitamin D production. I happen to think that indirect ultraviolet rays entering the retina are also important (see “Health and Light” – Dr. John Nash Ott). I hear the message about “low pressure” tanning beds, but the tanning salons in Portland all tout “high pressure” beds for some reason.

  6. [email protected]

    Studies have shown a linear decrease in vitamin D from the sun with age.
    At least a 2X reduction by age 70.
    Here is the linear graph: http://www.vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=2969
    Included is a reference to the many methods to increase the vitamin D from the sun

  7. Mark Haymond

    Dr Cannell, In your comment above you say that the skin is protected by a high 25 (OH)D level. I have never read any explanation about how Vitamin D “protects” the skin and how taking Vitamin D before sun exposure helps protect the skin. Please explain further.

  8. John Cannell, MD

    The protection a high 25 (OH)D affords the skin is based on the fact the skin makes large amounts of 1,25 which is very effective in protecting the skin from UV radiation.

    There are no direct studies proving my theory but anyone can easily find out by getting their level up to 60-70 and going into the sun. You will not be as sun sensitive.

  9. [email protected]

    One particular website states that washing with soap decreases absorption of vitamin D. According to the website, vitamin D is in the oil of the skin,after sun exposure, and takes 48 hours to be absorbed. If soap is used to wash the skin during this time the oil and vitamin D are removed. Can you confirm this?

    • Brant Cebulla

      [email protected],
      Researchers measured vitamin D levels in a small pool of Hawaiians who reportedly got lots of sun exposure. They found that their levels were a little below expectations, which has led some people to speculate that maybe washing and using soap washes away some vitamin D that was produced in the skin. This has never been studied, so this is speculative at the moment.

      It does take about 24-48 hours for your body to convert all of its vitamin D it produced in the skin to 25OHD.


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