By Paul Scicluna
From ancient times to the present day the sun has always been known as the giver of life. However for the last fifty or so years, it has been touted as the evil crusader of cancer!
I fully agree that sunbaking yourself on each side for too long is nothing short of stupid. However I don’t think most people who get sun burnt actually go out to get burnt. So we need to be a little more mindful when going out in the sun, timeframes of exposure, and skin type.
A question I often get asked is "What are some good sources of Vitamin D?" It's simple. Direct sun exposure is essential for the production of vitamin D in the body. We don’t get vitamin D from the sun. Most people don’t realise that we actually produce vitamin D in the skin via the exposure of our skin to the sun’s rays. This is why smart sun exposure is so important.
A lack of Vitamin D is prevalent in society. And, it’s unfortunate that we only seem to hear one side of the story - that is to stay out of the sun and if you do go into the sun, then cover up and lather yourself in the highest S.P.F. sunscreen you can find.
A sunscreen with an S.P.F. of 8 blocks 95% of the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D. An S.P.F. 15 or higher takes it from 99 up to 100 percent. This means that your body isn’t producing vitamin D even though you may be in direct sunlight.
Vitamin D deficiency is a major global health problem. With all the medical advances of today, vitamin D deficiency is still at epidemic levels. There’s over a billion people worldwide who are classed as deficient or insufficient. However, how many governments or international health organisations have you seen declaring a health emergency in order to warn the public about the urgent need of achieving sufficient vitamin D blood levels?
There has been growing evidence for quite some time now that exposure to sunlight is important for good health and disease prevention. The fact is that vitamin D is critical to the formation and maintenance of our bones, so it's vital for people with calcium deficiency. However, no matter how much calcium you have in your diet, the body can’t build and maintain quality bone mass without vitamin D, through to your DNA. Vitamin D has been shown to affect your DNA through vitamin D receptors, which bind to specific locations of the human genome. Scientists have identified nearly 3,000 genes that are influenced by vitamin D levels.
Recent evidence has confirmed that exposure to the sun in smart, measured timeframes has a number of health benefits unrelated to vitamin D production, such as:
· Inducing nitric oxide (NO), which helps protect skin against UV damage, offers cardiovascular protection and promotes wound healing
· Enhancing mood and energy through the release of endorphins
· Protecting and suppressing symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS)
· Treating skin diseases such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, scleroderma and vitiligo
· Melatonin regulation through the pineal gland photoreceptors
· Relieving fibromyalgia pain
· Treating neonatal jaundice
· Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
· Regulating body temperature
· Protecting against melanoma and decreasing mortality from it
That just shows that Vitamin D benefits are widespread. What's more, several studies have confirmed that smart sun exposure actually helps prevent skin cancer. Melanoma occurrence has been found to decrease with greater sun exposure, and can be increased by sunscreens.
An Italian study, published in the European Journal of Cancer in 2008, confirms and supports earlier studies showing improved survival rates in melanoma patients who were exposed to sunlight more frequently in the time before their melanoma was diagnosed.
It’s been shown that melanoma is actually more common in indoor workers than in outdoor workers. It’s also been found that melanoma is more common on areas of your body that don’t get much exposure to the sun. And people wonder why there is such a high rate of Vitamin D deficiency in society!
Vitamin D when metabolised in the body has been shown to act as a powerful inhibitor of abnormal cell growth in the prostate. Similar mechanisms have also been shown with cells in the colon and breast.
Studies have shown that those with low levels of circulating vitamin D had a 50 percent greater risk of developing colon and prostate cancers.
Dr William Grant of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reported that those who lived in sunny climates or worked out doors had lower death rates from breast, colon, prostate, ovary, bladder, uterus, esophagus, rectum and stomach cancers.
Researchers have found that vitamin D levels are low in 90 percent of people with degenerative diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes.
It wouldn’t surprise me if a lack of vitamin D due to little to no sun exposure is linked to many of the allergies that we are seeing in children these days, as they are so prevalent now but once weren’t.
Dr Michael F. Holick, a professor of medicine, dermatology, physiology and biophysics at the Boston University School of Medicine says that no one should be a “sunphobe.”
Dr Holick discovered the active form of vitamin D and he has pooled a large body of evidence in support of his advice that smart, measured time frames of sunlight exposure can help ward off a host of debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases.
I think there needs to be more attention to this side of the story as we’ve been bombarded with this anti-sun agenda. There are plenty of Vitamin D benefits and society needs to take advantage of them.
Sunshine is good medicine and has been used right throughout the ages as exactly that... and guess what? It’s free!
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