Fair people at higher risk from vitamin D deficiency

Those with fair skin are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency unless supplements are taken

People with fair skin could be at a higher risk of suffering from vitamin D deficiency, unless they take extra supplements.

The survey, which examined 1,200 people, found that 730 of them had a ‘lower than optimal’ level and a large number of them were those with pale, freckled skin.

Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D, but people with paler skin might not be able to reap the benefits from it.

Earlier this year, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued new guidelines stating the benefits of the sun, but that long periods of exposure could significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer. For this reason increasing sun exposure to increase vitamin D levels, particularly for those with pale skin, is not recommended.

With fairer people therefore advised to cover up and stay out of the sun they are often unable to absorb a sufficient amount of vitamin D.

‘It’s clear that people with fair skin find it difficult to manufacture enough Vitamin D and protect themselves from burning,’ says Prof Julia Newton-Bishop from the University of Leeds.

The Cancer Research UK-funded team also revealed that some fair-skinned individuals also appear less able to make and process vitamin D in the body, regardless of how long they are exposed to sunshine.

Vitamin D is essential for healthy growth and development and important for strong bones and teeth, with severe deficiencies leading to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

Experts have suggested taking supplements as a good alternative to combat deficiencies. They are already recommended for other groups at risk of deficiency, including those with dark skin, those who wear full-body covering, the elderly, young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women.

‘If people are concerned about their levels, they should see their doctor who may recommend a vitamin D test’, says Hazel Nunn of Cancer Research UK.

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