Remember when it was trendy to grow plants inside under a set of LED lamps? Today, growers such as Sustainable Local Foods use LED lighting to produce plants year-round. Benefits of exclusive LED exposure include low costs and bigger/better plants. How so? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), energy costs are the country’s third largest expense for the vast majority of growers, with lighting costs representing a considerable portion of that expense. LEDs are 66% more efficient than legacy high pressure sodium (HPS) lights when measured lamp to lamp. In addition, LEDs, which make for a controlled growing environment, prompt less water waste, less chemical runoff, and a more efficient use of space. And to top it off, LEDs’ indoor use makes for a highly reduced carbon footprint.
But what do LED lights have to do with Vitamin D?
Well, sticking with the Vitamin D queue, while taking supplements may be your way of maintaining sufficient Vitamin D levels, there is an alternative that has been proven beneficial to people. The Boston University School of Medicine has found that ultraviolet light from LEDs can produce Vitamin D in human skin at a faster rate than sunlight.
Led by Dr. Michael F. Holick, a professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at Boston University and an endocrinologist at Boston Medical Center, research done by Tyler Kalajian and his team at BU--published in Scientific Reports journal--shows that light from RayVio’s 293nm UV LED is more efficient than sunlight at producing Vitamin D3 in skin samples. “[The team] tested ultraviolet LEDs from different sources and at different wavelengths. RayVio’s 293 nm LED showed the most significant potential for Vitamin D3 production in the shortest amount of time” (sciencedaily). Skin samples exposed to RayVio’s UV LED for .52 minutes produced more than twice as much Vitamin D3 as samples exposed to natural sunlight for 32.5 minutes.
What this means for the future
Dr. Holick reported “this study will lead to a new generation of technology that can be labeled as photopharmacology in which the use of LEDs with targeted wavelengths can cause specific biologic effects in human skin to help treat and prevent chronic illnesses” (sciencedaily). LED light opens doors to treating patients with Vitamin D deficiencies and subsequent diseases associated which those deficiencies. That includes rickets, osteoporosis, and other metabolic bone diseases. Who would have thought artificial lighting could do so much? A UV LED device that produces Vitamin D3 could be used on regions of the skin that are not exposed to as much sunlight (ie: abdomen, upper legs and arms, back) to minimize the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer. Emitting a much narrow band of UVB light, the UV LED device could decrease the possibility of skin damage that may occur when skin is exposed to higher wavelengths of UV radiation. (eenewseurope).
What if I can’t take Vitamin D supplements or be out in the sun?
Even though some of us take supplements to keep up, the LED findings set the stage for people who are unable to ingest Vitamin D or cannot be out in the sun due to health conditions. Those with inflammatory bowel diseases including Crohn’s disease and gastric bypass patients are left with little resource aside from natural sunlight as their source of the vitamin. However, people in such a state of health would be able to meet their Vitamin requirements by using an LED device. For direct skin contact, Angeline Veronikis, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and undergraduate research assistant for the BU study, suggests further research in creating either a bracelet, blanket, or belt type device that one could simply wear on their skin for five or ten minutes daily in order to achieve their Vitamin D goals.
Considering that Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in northern and southern latitudes due to limited sunlight for a significant part of the year (75% of U.S. teens and adults are deficient) LED lights are seeming more and more attractive for things other than the Christmas tree.