Fair skinned people 'need vitamin D supplements'
Fair-skinned people who burn easily in the sun may need to take vitamin D supplements, according to new research.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and people get most of what they need from exposure to sunlight during the summer months.
NHS advice says that while there is not one recommendation to suit everybody, short daily periods (10 to 15 minutes) of sun exposure without sunscreen during the summer months (April to October) are enough for most.
But a new study funded by Cancer Research UK has found that people with very pale skin may not be able to spend long enough in the sun while also avoiding sunburn.
It suggests that the increased risk of skin cancer from excessive sun exposure outweighs any vitamin D benefit for people who are fair-skinned.
The study, from the University of Leeds and published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control, suggests the optimal amount of vitamin D required by the body is at least 60nmol/L.
Some studies have indicated that levels lower than this are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and poorer survival from breast cancer.
Meanwhile, levels below 25nmol/L are linked to poor bone health.
In the new study, people with fair skin did not, on average, reach 60nmol/L unless they were taking supplements, but they did reach above 25nmol/L.
Researchers also found that sunlight and supplements are not the only factors that can determine the level of vitamin D in the human body.
Genetic differences in how the body processes vitamin D have a strong effect on vitamin D levels.
The researchers also found that patients with melanoma skin cancer may need vitamin D supplements.
Professor Julia Newton-Bishop, lead author of the study, said: ''Fair-skinned individuals who burn easily are not able to make enough vitamin D from sunlight and so may need to take vitamin D supplements.
''This should be considered for fair-skinned people living in a mild climate like the UK and melanoma patients in particular.''
Experts analysed vitamin D levels for 1,203 people and found that around 732 had a sub-optimal level.
Those with fair skin had significantly lower levels than others in the group.
Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: ''We must be careful about raising the definition of deficiency or sufficiency to higher levels until we have more results from trials showing that maintaining such levels has clear health benefits and no health risks.
''If you are worried about your vitamin D levels, our advice is to go see your doctor.''
Fair skinned people 'need vitamin D supplements' - Telegraph