Television health guru Dr. Mehmet Oz — better known as “Dr. Oz” — said on his program this week he is re-thinking his position on indoor tanning sunbeds because they are an abundant source of natural vitamin D production as well as other compounds made in the skin.
“The sun provides vitamin D in a very unique way. But it also provides tons of other compounds besides vitamin D.” Oz said in an interview on his own program with health educator Dr. Joseph Mercola. “I am rethinking tanning beds. In the last year I have looked at a lot of information. …I think there is a value of UVB radiation, not just for vitamin D but for other sources as well.”
Oz was commenting on Mercola’s recommendation that use of sunbeds in the winter is a key to good health. Mercola is among those who believe humans need 8,000 IU of vitamin D daily to assure that vitamin D blood levels are in natural range consistent with outdoor living and at levels indicated by hundreds of studies to be associated with lower risk of health problems from cancer to heart disease and autoimmune disorders.
No food source comes close to delivering that level of vitamin D. UVB from sun exposure can make up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D in the skin without the risk of an overdose, as the skin naturally de-metabolizes any extra vitamin D.
When Mercola told Oz that he recommends sunbed usage in the winter Oz’s in-studio crowd reacted in shock.
The two health education icons — in endorsing sunbed usage to make vitamin D — showed that they still do not fully understand all of the photobiology of tanning equipment. Oz suggested that most sunbeds emit UVA but not UVB — and that consumers need to look for equipment that emits measurable UVB.
“Dermatology has been misleading Oz,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “More than 90 percent of sunbeds today emit UVB and UVA in dosages consistent with natural sunlight. But we’re glad that he seems to be open to the fact that there is a natural benefit to UV from sunlight, and that sunbeds can be a good surrogate for that.”
Oz still says he does not recommend sunbed usage for tanning — just for vitamin D production. “Again, that’s not a straight distinction,” Levy said. “Tanning has nothing to do with vitamin D production — melanin production happens while vitamin D is being produced. They happen at the same time.”
Mercola also continues to make issue of magnetic ballasts used in some sunbeds, alleging that electromagnetic fields (EMF) are dangerous. But EMF levels generated by sunbeds expose users to less EMF than cell phone usage — very small dosages one would find in many electronic products. Sunbed industry representatives have asked Mercola to document the source of his allegation about ballasts but have never received an answer.
Mercola and Oz also refer to what they called “safe” tanning beds — those that emit UVB and which use electronic ballasts instead of magnetic ballasts. Mercola sells equipment with electronic ballasts through his web site.