Lying in the sun is a quick and easy was to boost your mood, relax, and get a bit of vitamin D. However, like all things in life, too much of a good thing can be dangerous. A new study has linked exposure to UV rays and decreased levels of folic acid. This is especially dangerous for pregnant woman or those planning to become pregnant.

Folic acid is a form of Vitamin B naturally found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, citrus fruits, legumes, and whole grains. It can also be added to many foods such as bread, flours, and pastas, or taken as a pill. Professor Kimlin, a researcher involved in the project, described the importance of folic acid for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant in a press release. “Folate has been found to reduce miscarriage and neural tube defects such as spinal bifida in unborn babies,” Kimlin explained in the story.

The study was carried out at Queensland University of Technology in Australia and involved 45 healthy female participants ages 18 to 47. Results showed that high rates of sun exposure were responsible for as much as a 20 percent reduction in folate levels for the subjects. Women who spent large amounts of time outside during the most UV intense time of the day, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., were found to have the lowest levels of folate. Although these women were not completely deficient in folic acid, they were found to be on the lower side of normal.

Before a definitive link can be made between low levels of folic acid and high UV exposure a second study needs to be carried out in a controlled clinical trial. However it is hoped that results gathered from this report can be used to help women make more informed lifestyle choices before and during their pregnancy. “We are not telling women to stop taking folate supplements, but rather urging women to talk to their doctor about their folate levels and the importance of folate in their diet, especially those who are planning a pregnancy," Dr. David Borradale, another researcher involved in the study, said in the release.

Source: Borradale D Isenring E Hacker E Kimlin MG. Exposure to solar ultra violet radiation is associated with a decreased folate status in women of childbearing age. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology. 2014.