Skip The Sunscreen If You Have Kidney Disease!

Almost a billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency.  That breaks down to around 1 in 7 people. Vitamin D deficiency also affects about 95% of African American adults. This is according to a clinical study review by the American Osteopathic Association.

If you have kidney disease you are at a much greater risk of vitamin D deficiency (among others) with some research stating 50% of people with kidney disease being deficient.

What is the reason for this?

The study researchers are blaming the overuse of sunscreen on the vitamin deficiency epidemic.

A lack of the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, which our bodies produce when our skin is exposed to sunlight, can negatively impact kidney disease. Low vitamin D status in kidney disease has been shown to accelerate the loss of kidney function compared to kidney disease sufferers who are sufficient in the vitamin.  

Proper vitamin D status is also involved in cell growth, acts as a hormone, facilitates muscle movements and plays a pivotal role in the immune system.

Aside from the overuse of sunscreen, some other factors that do not allow adequate vitamin D status are:

  • Indoor lifestyles are one risk factor as you lack exposure to sun and therefore, can not create vitamin D.
  • African Americans are at risk for vitamin D deficiency because darker skin has higher levels of melanin, which works like a natural sunscreen.
  • Sunscreens that have an SPF 15 or higher reduce the ability of our skin to produce vitamin D3.

While we want people to protect against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D.

While foods and supplements help to boost vitamin D levels, one of the easiest ways to reach this goal is to step outside around lunchtime for five to 30 minutes twice a week. This can be a helpful tip, but more may be needed in kidney disease. Often times a vitamin D supplement will be needed to raise levels.

At your next doctor appointment, make sure your vitamin D is tested and let us know your results by visiting our FaceBook, and sign up to our newsletter for more kidney health news.


The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2017, Vol. 117, 301-305. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2017.055