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Modelling the seasonal variation of vitamin D due to sun exposure

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Brian Diffey


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Background The current interest in vitamin D as a preventive agent in many chronic diseases has led to a reappraisal of adequate sun exposure. Yet just what constitutes adequacy remains to be clearly defined and validated. To do this requires an understanding of how behaviour outdoors during the year translates into seasonal changes in vitamin D status. Objectives To develop a model for estimating the changes in serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH) D] levels as a consequence of sun exposure throughout the year. Methods A novel mathematical model is described that incorporates the changes in serum 25(OH) D following a single, whole-body exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation with daily sun exposure in order to estimate the annual variation in serum 25(OH) D. Results The model yields results that agree closely with measured data from a large population-based study. Application of the model showed that current advice about 10-20 min of daily sun exposure during the summer months does little in the way of boosting overall 25(OH) D levels, while sufficient sun exposure that could achieve a worthwhile benefit would compromise skin health. Conclusions There is little in the way of public health advice concerning the benefits of sun exposure that can be given as an effective means of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels throughout the year. Instead it would seem safer and more effective to fortify more foods with vitamin D and/or to consider the use of supplements during the winter months. Messages concerning sun exposure should remain focused on the detrimental effects of excessive sun exposure and should avoid giving specific advice on what might be 'optimal' sun exposure.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Diffey BL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Dermatology

Year: 2010

Volume: 162

Issue: 6

Pages: 1342-1348

Print publication date: 15/02/2010

ISSN (print): 0007-0963

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2133

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.09697.x


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