Pale-Skinned People May Need Vitamin D Supplements: Study

If your skin is super pale, you're already well aware of your must-have items: sunscreen with a high SPF, and a hat (for shade). But a new study suggests you might also need some vitamin D supplements.

In the Cancer Causes and Control study of 1,200 people, researchers found that 730 of them had vitamin D levels that were below normal. But the people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were those with fair skin.

"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," study researcher Julia Newton-Bishop, of the Cancer Research UK Centre at the University of Leeds, said in a statement.

BBC reports:

Supplements are already recommended for groups at higher risk of deficiency. This includes people with dark skin, such as people of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, and people who wear full-body coverings, as well as the elderly, young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and people who avoid the sun. Based on the latest findings, it appears that pale-skinned people should be added to this list.

Vitamin D, which isn't naturally found in many foods, is necessary for the body to absorb calcium (which then helps to build and maintain strong bones). CBS reports that the best naturally occurring sources of the daily value of vitamin D include cod liver oil, mackerel and salmon. Yogurt, eggs, tuna and milk contain some (but not the daily value) of the vitamin.

Vitamin D levels below 25 nanomoles per liter are considered deficient, and can translate to poor bone health, researchers said. Some experts say that vitamin D levels of 60 nanomoles per liter are necessary for optimal bone health.

The Institute of Medicine, last year, issued recommendations on how much vitamin D we should be getting a day. It said that most people in the United States, from age 1 to 70, needs to consume up to 600 international units a day of vitamin D, while people older than 70 could require up to 800 international units a day, the Associated Press reported. However, some scientists and health care professionals disagree with the recommendations, saying they are too low.

Those recommendations also suggested that there is such thing as too much vitamin D. Consuming too much of the vitamin can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer and can even cause kidney damage, the Associated Press reported.