Lahore (Web Desk): A recent study has claimed that excessive use of sunscreen can cause vitamin D deficiency .

According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, nearly one billion people worldwide may be having deficient or insufficient levels of Vitamin D due to inadequate sun exposure related to sunscreen use.

Vitamin D is very important for the growth of bones, as it helps the gut to absorb calcium. Interestingly, the vitamin also aids muscle and nerve function, and it helps the immune system to stave off infection.

The deficiency may lead to loss of bone density that can increase the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.

However, the risks that come with sunlight exposure - such as sunburn and skin cancer - cannot be ignored, and sunscreen is considered one of the best ways to protect against such harms.

The study also suggests that people should avoid sunscreen use when exposed to midday sun for up to 30 minutes twice weekly, in order to increase and maintain normal vitamin D levels.

The researchers came to their conclusions after conducting a review of clinical studies investigating vitamin D deficiency .

The team used this information to determine the scope of vitamin D deficiency worldwide, as well as risk factors for the condition and what can be done to boost vitamin D levels.

From their review, the researchers conclude that sunscreen use and diseases involving malabsorption of vitamin D - including Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease - play a part in almost 1 million cases of vitamin D deficiency worldwide.

According to the team, using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher can reduce the body’s vitamin D-3 production by 99 percent.

To boost and maintain optimal vitamin D levels, the researchers recommend spending around 5 to 30 minutes in midday sun twice each week, without the protection of sunscreen .

Dr. Kim Pfotenhauer, co-author of the study said that people are spending less time outside and, when they do go out, they’re typically wearing sunscreen , which essentially nullifies the body’s ability to produce vitamin D.

The study also stated that vitamin D supplementation is also a good way to boost vitamin D levels, as it does not pose the risks associated with sunlight exposure. However, the authors recommend consulting a physician before taking vitamin D supplements.