Health & Wellbeing

Ultraviolet LEDs proposed for skin-safe vitamin D production

Ultraviolet LEDs proposed for ...
UV LEDs (pictured here in a blacklight flashlight) could help seniors produce much-needed vitamin D, without causing skin damage
UV LEDs (pictured here in a blacklight flashlight) could help seniors produce much-needed vitamin D, without causing skin damage
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UV LEDs (pictured here in a blacklight flashlight) could help seniors produce much-needed vitamin D, without causing skin damage
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UV LEDs (pictured here in a blacklight flashlight) could help seniors produce much-needed vitamin D, without causing skin damage

Even though we're warned about the harmful effects of the ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight, they're essential for the production of vitamin D in the body. Now, scientists are claiming that UV LEDs could serve as a safe alternative to sunlight, when the latter isn't available in sufficient amounts.

Among other things, vitamin D helps reduce the loss of bone density and muscle mass, particularly in the elderly. And while the vitamin can be taken in supplement form, it's most effective when naturally generated by the body, in response to sunlight exposure.

Unfortunately, people living at northern latitudes may not get enough sunlight during the winter, when the daylight hours are reduced. Individuals with reduced mobility – such as the elderly – may also not be able to go outdoors often or long enough for sufficient UV exposure.

On the flipside, though, excessive exposure has been linked to health problems such as skin cancer and premature aging of the skin.

With this quandary in mind, researchers at Japan's Nagoya University started by determining the minimum dose and intensity of UV light required to generate sufficient vitamin D production in mice. Next, mice that had been genetically altered to age at an accelerated rate were irradiated twice a week by UV LEDs that were set to those levels. A control group received no UV exposure.

After 12 weeks of the treatment, it was found that the UV-exposed mice had higher blood serum vitamin D levels, along with increased bone density, muscle mass and strength. Importantly, though, no skin damage was observed.

The researchers are now developing a portable UV LED device for use by humans. It's intended to be mainly utilized by seniors to prevent or cure osteosarcopenia, which is a combination of decreased bone density and decreased muscle mass.

"With this device, all elderly people will be able to get enough vitamin D, the same amount or more than from sunlight, in an easy and safe manner at low cost," says the lead scientist, Prof. Yoshihiro Nishida. "It could be a promising approach for the prevention and treatment of this disease."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Nagoya University

9 comments
MarkGovers
Dr. Mercola was trying to share this, but they shut down his tanning bed sales. Even though he stated the benefits outweighed the risks. Although this is a progression of the science, as controlled precise and exact safe doses simply make sense. Like a fire, which can burn a house, or cook a wonderful meal. UV exposure needs to be precise.
Spud Murphy
And like all medical devices, it will be insanely overpriced, and the Chinese will start producing generic copies of it at a fraction of the cost.
paul314
This used to be a common thing in some northern countries in the 50s and 60s -- strip the kids to their skivvies and put them in the UV room for a few hours a week. They may have used less skin-friendly wavelengths, but it definitely worked, according to a friend who was subjected to it.
buzzclick
UVA or UVB?
Gannet
316 nm, which is just on the UV-A side of the UV-A to B boundary.
michael_dowling
I get my levels checked during my yearly physical. The doctor told me my blood levels were on the low side 5 or 6 years ago,so I started D3 supplements,as I hate being out in the sun. Brought my levels back to the normal range by my next physical.
Rusty Harris
Can't you just spend a little time outdoors? Granted in the dead of winter, not possible, but for a good 6-9 months a year it should be possible.
ljaques
Quoted from website: "Vitamin D is made when UV (more precisely, UVB rays) react with a compound (7-dehydrocholesterol) in the skin. The best rays for UV synthesis have wavelengths between 270–300 nm. These wavelengths are present when the UV index is greater than 3." Unfortunately for us, both the $2usd $12usd UV flashlights from Chiwan are 365-395nm. https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/1313-vitamin-d-and-uv
Trylon
Or you can just take a vitamin D supplement. Effective, safe, convenient and inexpensive.