Vitamin D - Can a Tanning Bed Replace the Sun?
by RA Butters
much consensus at all. Some skin specialists say limited exposure to the sun itself is
the best choice, while others advocate avoiding artificial and natural sun alike and
depending on food and supplements to maintain adequate levels of the vitamin.

Exposure to the sun triggers the body to produce Vitamin D, which is often referred
to as the sunshine vitamin. Long recognized for its importance to bone health and
strength, it has recently been proven to play an important role in a host of aspects of
both physical and mental health.

Low levels of the vitamin have been associated with a number of serious diseases
including cardio-vascular disease, multiple sclerosis, asthma, Alzheimer's disease, and
several forms of cancer. Recent research has also shown that insufficient levels of
the vitamin are clearly correlated with mental health issues, including depression and
cognitive impairment in the elderly.

Since few foods contain vitamin D, sun exposure is traditionally an important part of
avoiding deficiency. But when hectic schedules, cloudy skies, or winter weather make
spending time in the sun a challenge, a few minutes in a tanning salon may seem like
a good substitute. However  many experts warn that while the rays from a tanning
bed could stimulate the production of the vitamin, exposure to the sun itself is safer.

Sunlight - both natural and artificial - contains two types of ultraviolet rays. UVB rays,
which are shorter and penetrate only the surface layers of the skin, are the ones that
trigger the synthesis of the vitamin. UVA rays are longer and penetrate deeper layers
of the skin, and are responsible for the deep golden tans that most tanning salon
patrons desire.

As little as 20 minutes of exposing the face and hands to UVB rays two or three
times a week can maintain sufficient levels of D vitamin, but prolonged exposure can
quickily lead to sunburns. In order to enhance tanning and reduce the potential for
burning, tanning beds are often calibrated to emit primarily UVA rays. If a tanning bed
is calibrated to emit mostly UVA rays, its ability to promote vitamin production is
greatly diminished.

The argument over whether the benefits of sun exposure outweigh it's potential for
creating problems has been going on for more than a decade. Pointing to the
possibility of skin cancer, some dermatologists urge people to actively avoid sun
exposure and get their D vitamin from foods and supplements. At the same time,
other skin specialists say that the body is equipped to handle moderate sun exposure.

About The Author

RA Butters

has been identified as a serious global health problem. Find out
more about this and other important aspects of the sunshine vitamin at
More and more people are choosing
to get that "summer glow" with a
quick trip to a tanning salon instead
of spending time outdoors. But is a
tanning bed a replacement for the
sun when it comes to getting enough
vitamin D?

Though experts have voiced a variety
of opinions on this question, the
general consensus seems to be a
cautious and qualified yes - it's
theoretically possible, but depending
on how the tanning bed is calibrated,
it may be unlikely. And when it comes
to the question of safety, there isn't
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