A little sunshine every day has great advantages and also help to prevent serious illnesses. Humans have a love-hate relationship with sunlight: On the one hand, it provides energy for the plants we eat, keeps us from freezing to death, and gives us healthy doses of vitamin D. On the other, UV rays from the sun can destroy the appearance of our skin and put us at risk for deadly melanoma. It’s well-known that tanning ups the chances of skin cancer, but a new study suggests that those who regularly soak up the rays may actually be living longer than people who avoid the sun.
Too much sun exposure isn’t a good thing, but not enough may be even worse. Read this to find out why.
In a new study, researchers tracked the sun exposure habits of 30,000 Swedish women for 20 years. They found that the women who strictly avoided the sun during that period had a two-fold greater risk of early death than women who received normal amounts of sun exposure.
What’s more, they found that women with normal sun exposure habits were not at significantly increased risk for malignant melanoma or melanoma-related death. (1) This is consistent with the results of a previous Swedish study that followed 38,000 women for 15 years and found that sun exposure was associated with reduced risk of both cardiovascular and overall death.
I’d like to emphasize that these studies are observational in nature, and thus do not prove causality. It’s possible that the women who got more sun had healthier diets and lifestyles than those who avoided the sun, and those factors led to the lower mortality, rather than the sun exposure.
However, it’s also possible—and probable, in my opinion—that completely avoiding does increase the risk of death. There are several possible mechanisms that explain why:
One of the primary benefits of sunlight is its ability to stimulate vitamin D production. Vitamin D deficiency is a major predisposing factor in at least 17 varieties of cancer, as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, birth defects, infectious disease and more. (3) It’s not a stretch, therefore, to imagine that women who avoid the sun have lower vitamin D levels (especially in areas with limited sun, like Sweden) and thus a higher risk of death.
Here are the top ways in which the sun can improve your health…
Helps skin conditions
EXPOSURE to the sun can help to heal such skin conditions as psoriasis, acne and eczema. Regular controlled sun exposure is often prescribed for sufferers. For serious cases, contact your GP. For minor cases, try exposing affected areas of skin to the sun for up to 30 minutes before covering up or slapping on the sunscreen – but make sure you never burn.
Scientists observed a connection between sunlight and cardiovascular disease as far back as the 1970s, when clinical trials on hypertension showed that blood pressure was consistently lower in summer than winter. Later studies showed that the both the prevalence of hypertension and average blood pressure is directly correlated with latitude; in other words, those living at northern and southern latitudes (with less sunlight) had more hypertension and higher average blood pressure, while those living closer to the equator had less hypertension and lower average blood pressure.
How does sunlight lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease? Sunlight stimulates the production of a chemical called nitric oxide in our skin. Nitric oxide helps our blood vessels to relax and expand, which in turn reduces blood pressure. This is important because high blood pressure is one of the strongest risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and even relatively small reductions in blood pressure can dramatically reduce the deaths from both heart attack and stroke.
SEASONAL Affective Disorder (SAD) – or the winter blues – is a depression specifically caused by lack of sunlight. Lightboxes can be used to treat it, although increased exposure to natural sunlight is more beneficial. Get out for an hour’s walk in the morning during autumn and winter months, and sit outside for 15 minutes a day in summer.
Sunlight may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease—and by extension, the risk of death—by putting the brakes on inflammation. These beneficial effects of sunlight are likely to extend to other organs and tissues as well, since both blood pressure and inflammation have widespread effects in the body.
THE sun could even help to keep your teeth strong. A dental study found the prevalence of cavities was greater in children from Scotland, the North-West, Wales and Merseyside – areas with less than average sunshine. The proportion of 12-year-olds with untreated cavities was three times greater in Scotland than in the South West Thames region.
Helps you lose weight
HIGHER levels of serotonin in our bodies not only makes you feel happy but it also suppresses the appetite, so you’ll eat less in warmer weather.
Go out in the sun at least three times a week to boost levels of vitamin D.
Another effect of sunlight that isn’t mediated by vitamin D is its ability to regulate immune function. Studies have shown that the the more hours of sun there are where you were born, the lower the risk you’ll develop multiple sclerosis. Along the same lines, the more exposure to sun people have where they work and live as adults, the lower their rates of MS, and relapse rates for MS are higher in winter than in summer. Evidence for benefit from sunlight is strong for other autoimmune diseases as well, such as type 1 diabetes.
Relieves aches and pains
Being out in the sun helps to warm the body’s muscles and eases stiffness, reducing the pain caused by inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Reduces risk of cancers
ALTHOUGH over exposure to the sun increases your risk of skin cancer, vitamin D provided by sunlight can actually help to significantly reduce your risk of other types of cancer.
A study carried out by the US National Cancer Institute found that people exposed to high levels of sunlight were significantly less likely to die from breast and colon cancer. A similar effect was seen in bladder, womb, oesophagus and stomach cancer.
THE sun reduces levels of the hormone melatonin which suppresses fertility, so it is more likely you’ll conceive in summer.
And sunlight not only makes you more fertile, it increases the length of your fertility. A study in Turkey discovered that women who get less than an hour of sunlight a week reach menopause seven to nine years earlier.
Sunlight also boosts testosterone levels in men, which makes summer the perfect time for baby-making.
Gives you more energy
MELATONIN also regulates sleep, so having lower levels of this hormone in your body gives you more get up and go. This is why you need less sleep in summer but still feel livelier. Plus, being woken by natural light rather than an alarm clock helps you feel more positive.
Beats period problems
ABOUT one in five women of childbearing age suffer from polycystic ovary disease which causes abnormal periods, unwanted body hair and infertility.
Half of 14 women treated with vitamin D and calcium by Dr Susan Thys-Jacobs at St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, Columbia University in New York, recovered normal periods and two became pregnant. Dr Thys-Jacobs also found that women with premenstrual syndrome are likely to be deficient in vitamin D.
Exposure to sunlight may improve endocrine function, elevate mood (via its effects on certain brain chemicals like serotonin) and increase DNA repair capacity, all of which could conceivably extend lifespan.
Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself from melanoma—while ensuring you still get the benefits of sun exposure—is to tan gradually, without burning.
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This article is not intended to take the place of a competent nutritionist or doctor. It is solely intended to educate people on the vital and perhaps underestimated importance of this nutritional element.
The information in this site is presented for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or prescribe.
In the event the reader uses the information for his own health, he is in fact prescribing for himself, which is his own constitutional right, and for which the author assumes no responsibility.
If you suffer from a medical condition, consult your doctor. If you have questions as to the application of this information to your own health, you are advised to consult a qualified health professional.
Source : chriskresser.com, mirror.co.uk