For years, scientists and medical doctors have argued on both sides of the tanning debate. Some experts believe tanning beds are perfect for increasing vitamin D production, while others believe short bouts of direct sunlight are enough to increase vitamin D levels. When UVB rays penetrate the skin, melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) is secreted in higher volumes. More MSH means more melanin is traveling through the blood and a darker or redder skin color develops. The two pigments directly responsible for skin color are eumelanin and phaeomelanin. Eumelanin makes skin brown and phaeomelanin makes skin red. While skin color may be an important driving factor for some people who choose to tan, it is the vitamin D production that has doctors and scientists looking into the health benefits of tanning both inside and out.
1. Increased Vitamin D Production
The medical community is in an uproar over whether or not tanning should be supported as a means of decreasing vitamin D deficiency. When sunlight, or UVB rays if tanning in a tanning bed, penetrate the skin the process of converting 7-dehydrocholesterol to vitamin D3 begins. UVB rays cannot pass through glass so sunlight needs to hit the skin directly, without sunscreen, or via tanning bed lights.
2. Protection Against Harmful UV Rays
Interestingly enough, people with darker skin tones and more melanin running through the bloodstream on a daily basis are less apt to contract skin cancer. Why? Melanin naturally protects against UV damage. Tanning beds and direct sunlight increase melanin in the bloodstream and may protect against certain forms of skin cancer.
3. Improved Cardiovascular Health
There’s one thing science is certain about – vitamin D deficiency can cause a long list of health problems, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, sunlight and vitamin D are fantastic partners when it comes to reducing cardiovascular disease risk.
4. Decreased Risk of Death
As if improving heart health wasn’t enough, increasing vitamin D may actually decrease the risk of death from diseases like diabetes, cancer and immune disorders. While taking vitamin D supplements may seem like the perfect solution, the body does not absorb supplemental vitamin D the way it does vitamin D produced after time in the sun or in a tanning bed. There is also the fact that the body can produce more vitamin D during a 10-mintue session in a tanning bed than any person can consume in supplement form.
5. It Just Feels Good
Sunlight, in both natural form and from a tanning bed, may improve mood and make for a happier, healthier life. Vitamin D production is lower during the winter months than any other time of the year. Staying indoors due to cold weather means no direct contact with the sun; and during the winter months the sun is actually too far away to be of any benefit in vitamin D production anyway. Tanning beds provide direct UVB rays that mimic the sun, so vitamin D production is always high.
Tanning beds and direct sunlight are for more than getting that bronze patina for a summer of bikinis, beach BBQs and fun in the sun. Sunlight or UVB rays are essential for overall health and may be linked to reduced cancer, cardiovascular and depressive events. Who needs another reason to spend some time each day basking in these rays of health? Whether you choose a tanning bed or the sun directly as Mother Nature provides, the health benefits of increased vitamin D are worth your time.
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