sources) to form vitamin D3 and store it in liver and fat. These factors may explain why latitude alone does not consistently predict the average serum 25OHD level of a population.
Effect of sunscreen on synthesis Sunscreens are used to protect the skin from ultraviolet A (UVA) and UVB waveband exposure that is associated with deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage—the same UVB exposure that is needed for vitamin D synthesis. Experimental studies suggest that sunscreens can decrease cutaneous vitamin D synthesis (Misra et al., 2008). However, emerging evidence suggests that although sunscreens are effective, many may not actually be blocking UVB because they are improperly or inadequately applied. Thus, sunscreen use may not actually diminish vitamin D synthesis in real world use, although further study is needed to verify its actual impact (Diehl and Chiu, 2010; Springbett et al., 2010).
Other variables affecting synthesis A number of other variables can impede sun exposure and thus inhibit cutaneous vitamin D synthesis. Clothing is an effective barrier to sun exposure and the UVB waveband, but the effectiveness of sun blocking depends on the thickness or weave of the fabric (Diehl and Chiu, 2010). Likewise, ethnic practices, such as extensive skin coverage with clothing, urban environments that reduce or block sunlight, air pollution, and cloud cover that reduces solar penetration can variously reduce sun exposure. In contrast, high altitude reduces the atmospheric protection against UVB waveband and can increase risk for sun damage as well as increase vitamin D synthesis (Misra et al., 2008). There may be a role for measures of physical activity in affecting vitamin D synthesis, although many covariates may be relevant, and some have suggested that genetics can account for some of the differences in synthesis of serum 25OHD.
Adiposity Interpreting data on serum 25OHD concentrations in obese and overweight persons is particularly challenging. Data from NHANES showed lower circulating levels of 25OHD among young adult obese non-Hispanic white women compared with their leaner counterparts; the relationship appeared to be weaker among non-Hispanic blacks. Differences in physical activity levels partially explain these differences (Looker, 2005, 2007). However, overweight and obese persons in NHANES also reported lower use of dietary supplements than did leaner persons of the same age or gender group (Radimer et al., 2004; Picciano et al., 2007), suggesting that lower dietary exposures could also contribute to the lower serum 25OHD levels in obese and overweight people.
Sequestration of vitamin D into fat likely also plays a significant role in