In Relation to the Sun: Melanated People and the ‘Hidden Epidemic’
Sunlight. It’s humanity’s main source of an essential vitamin: vitamin D. The sun’s UVB rays carry vitamin D, and our bodies photosynthesize nutrients from sunlight just like plants. Making exposure to the sun vital to our health.
Why is vitamin D an essential vitamin?
Vitamin D regulates calcium levels and absorption, making it essential for healthy bones & teeth. It also aids in auto-immune functionality, endocrine [glandular] and digestive system, regulates insulin/blood sugar, and nerve functions. Basically, vitamin D is a necessary component for good health.
Vitamin D deficiency & African Americans
Recent studies suggest upward of 66% of African Americans are deficient in vitamin D.
But Why? Melanin makes the synthesis of vitamin D from sun exposure harder, particularly for eumelanated people. So while the news, and doctors are saying that 15-30 minutes of sun each day are sufficient for vitamin D absorption – what they don’t say is that amount of time is sufficient for non-melanated. While there is no standard recommended dosage of vitamin D it has been suggested that eumelanated people need 2-3 hours (120-180 minutes) of sun exposure to gain the same units of vitamin D a non-melanated person would get in 15-30 mins.
African American women, of every adult age, are at even greater risk of vitamin D deficiency [estimated at over 70%]. This deficiency can result in osteoporosis later in life. I’d be remiss if I did not touch on the other, non health-related issue with sun exposure: the American standard of beauty. There is a stigma surrounding black women, and a ‘culture’ of staying out of the sun as to not get ‘too dark.’ This mentality could be killing us – literally.
What about skin cancer?
While some scientists and doctors would tell you the risks of too much sun exposure most of their concerns are directed toward non-melanated [white/pale skinned] people.
First, eumelanin is a natural sunscreen. Making non-melanated people much more susceptible to skin cancer – cause by sun exposure – than other even slightly melanated folks.
Secondly, UVA rays from the sun actually are responsible for most skin cancers. Remember, UVB rays contain the vitamin D. UVA rays are highest during mid-day, so morning and evening sun is best for vitamin D synthesis [and avoidance of cancer-causing free radicals].
Thirdly, do not use topical sunblock with SPF! Again – eumelanin is a natural sunscreen already. Even something as small as an SPF8 can block up to 95% of vitamin D synthesis!
And finally, vitamin D deficiency can actually raise the risk of other type of cancers [not to mention increased risk of diabetes & cardiovascular disease].
While you can get vitamin D from foods, very few actually contain vitamin D. You get vitamin D naturally from fatty fishes, egg yolk, and mushrooms, but also vitamin D fortified foods.
Let me throw this in for free: Sunlight also stimulates the pineal gland, which creates and secretes a number of key hormones [serotonin & melatonin] into the body – and is ultimately responsible for the amount of melanin produced in your body. SO sunlight is not only essential for vitamin D, but also hormones that make the body function properly.
- Get some sun. Morning and evening sunlight – for as long as you can
- Supplement your diet with foods that contain or are fortified with vitamin D
- Healthy body, which means healthy diet and exercise so you can function properly