Low-fat milk is good, but some sun is an option for vitamin D

March 16, 2012 By Katie Pence

(Medical Xpress) -- With obesity on the rise, nutritional issues have been taken on by public and governmental officials.
In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a federally funded, five-year plan to improve cafeteria food and reduce childhood obesity.

The new guidelines guarantee more fruits, veggies and whole grains on the lunch table; in addition, full-fat milk is off the menu, meaning kids will choose from low-fat or fat-free.
Lauri Erway Nandyal, MD, UC Health primary care physician who sees patients in Wyoming, says this is a good change in order to keep children eating healthier, lower-fat foods, but warns that, whether milk is part of a person’s daily intake or not, is necessary for healthy bones and bodies.
"Most kids don’t do green vegetables, which are a source of calcium, so milk is the best option for vitamins and calcium,” she says, adding that white milk is best, omitting the added sugar in chocolate or flavored milks, which may be as unhealthy as soda. "Nutrition in school is so important because some children aren’t getting the message about healthy eating at home.
"Schools should be held to higher standards and not reinforce poor eating choices.”
But even with milk and veggies on the table, Nandyal says vitamin D is not available through many other food sources.
"We can’t expect one or two cartons of milk to do the trick,” she says. "It’s a fatty fish-based product, so we can eat fish, but we also need to see vitamin D deficiency as less of a nutritional issue and more of a skin issue.”
Nandyal explains that our bodies are designed to manufacture vitamin D through our skin and cautious exposure to sun is important, being careful to avoid burning.     
"There are vitamin D supplements, which are often necessary in addition to the little we can get from our diets, but in my opinion, we need more public consensus about what amount of is safe and necessary to get the amount of vitamin D that we need,” she says, adding that during the winter months, the need for supplementation is important, since sun exposure is not feasible.
"We’re trying to level the playing field, but saying that the same amount of sun exposure will produce sufficient vitamin D for everyone is untrue.
"No one should spend excess amounts of time in the sun, but depending on the amount of melanin in the skin and the amount of skin a person is willing to show, the amount of vitamin D able to be manufactured differs.”  
She adds that in an effort to be "colorblind,” the same recommendations for sunscreen to pale people are often made for people of color.
"African-Americans are well pigmented and don’t need to be slathered in the highest level SPF,” she says. "I’m not saying that sun screen should not be used; however, I’m saying that we do need some sort of sun exposure to be healthy and receive some of the vitamin D that we need, and that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of solution.
"In fact, someone with a dark complexion needs about four times the amount of sun exposure to someone who has fairer skin.”
And when it comes to the schoolyard, Nandyal says that in addition to milk, educators should try to hold outdoor PE classes, to allow some of that natural vitamin D absorption.
"There shouldn’t be an expectation that milk will solve vitamin D deficiencies,” she says. "In fact, isn’t a natural source of vitamin D either. However, I think the nutrition push in schools is fantastic, and I’m glad to see these efforts under way.
"I tell my patients to not think of food as fuel, but instead to think of it as data—information being used to tell your body how to process and fix problems. We want to be sure that we’re putting in the right data—through our mouths or our skin—to achieve the best possible health.”

Explore further: More evidence vitamin D boosts immune response

Related Stories

More evidence vitamin D boosts immune response

June 17, 2011
Laboratory-grown gingival cells treated with vitamin D boosted their production of an endogenous antibiotic, and killed more bacteria than untreated cells, according to a paper in the June 2011 issue of the journal Infection ...

Losing weight, keeping it off might require distinct skill sets

July 5, 2011
A new study indicates that the practices that help people to lose weight and the practices that help them keep it off do not overlap much.

Orange sweet potato reduces risk of vitamin a deficiency in children and women in Mozambique

November 22, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition indicates that orange sweet potato (OSP) is effective in providing vitamin A to malnourished women and children in Mozambique, where the prevalence ...

Keep bones safe through winter weather

December 23, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Winter months can make simple outdoor activities a challenge, and dreary weather can leave you searching for sunshine.

Resist temptation to tan, despite winter doldrums

December 30, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Don’t let winter’s lack of sunshine lure you into a tanning bed. 

Recommended for you

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 16, 2012
First they tell us to stay out of the sun due to skin cancer.
Then they tell us milk is good for you for its vitamin D.
Then they tell you to get some sun, for its vitamin D.

So, what's in this year? Vitamin D from milk, or from the sun?
not rated yet Mar 17, 2012
Argiod, I don't know who you're listening to. Being out in the sun is great for you, as long as you use sunscreen. It's the science that's telling us this, not "big government" (if that's what you meant by "they"). And while the health benefits from drinking milk are debatable, fortified milk can be a good source of vitamin D, since using sunscreen actually reduces vitamin D production in the skin.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.