The bright side… of the sun

news: The bright side… of the sun

Midday sun holds the key to good health?

IN A press release dated May 26 2005, scientists at the University of Manchester unveiled new research claiming that going out in the midday sun, without sunscreen, is good for you.

Research, led by ultraviolet radiation expert Dr Ann Webb, supports claims that exposing unprotected skin to the sun for short periods helps the body to produce essential vitamin D. “The best time to be out in the sun if you want to maximise vitamin D production and its benefits is midday, when the sun is highest in the sky and when there is more UVB radiation in the spectrum which triggers vitamin D production in the skin,” says Dr Webb. “After a short period of unprotected exposure you should cover up, or put on sunscreen to avoid sunburn.”

Dr Webb says: “The two sources of vitamin D are through your skin, or through foods like sardines (fatty fish), but because our everyday diet isn’t very rich in this vitamin, it is essential that we get it from the sun.”

“You do not need to sunbathe to get your vitamin D and we are not advocating people do not protect themselves with sunscreen, but if you put sunscreen on before you step out of the house you will not reap any health benefits provided naturally by the sun. People who tan easily would need to stay slightly longer in the sun, and naturally pigmented people require even more sun exposure.”

How much sunlight does the body need to make vitamin D?

The amount of Vitamin D that can be made in the skin at any one time is limited, therefore, a long exposure gives no benefits, only the risk of sunburn. Short, regular (daily) exposures are the best way to build up a healthy vitamin D status.

Most people do not need significant amounts of sun exposure to enhance production of vitamin D. Ten to 15 minutes of sun exposure twice a week to the face, arms, hands or back without sunscreen is usually enough. This should be followed by application of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Although sunlight is a major source of vitamin D, it isn’t the only source.

Many foods are supplemented with vitamin D, such as fortified milk and cereals. Other food sources of vitamin D include salmon, herring, eggs and mushrooms. It’s important for people with limited sun exposure to include good sources of vitamin D in their diets.

Sunscreens with an SPF of 8 or greater will block ultraviolet rays that produce vitamin D. But it’s still important to routinely use sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer and other harmful consequences of excessive sun exposure.

The major biological function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong teeth and bones. Recently, research also suggests vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, hypertension, cancer, and several autoimmune diseases. According to the American National Cancer Institute, researchers found that people who lived in the sunniest parts of the country, and those exposed to the most sunlight through their jobs, had significantly lower rates of breast and colon cancer than matched controls. The light and heat from the sun are indispensable to all nature and are the basic component from which all life originates, develops, heals, and evolves. Humanity is also part of nature and needs sunlight for health and well being, for vitality and happiness.

Everything that humans do is affected in some way by light. Light has been used for healing since the time of ancient Egypt. Modern scientists began recognizing the benefits of light therapy in the late 1700s. The treatment of disease by exposing the body to sunlight, known as Heliotherapy, is widely used… but, enough for today! We will talk about it in the next Resident Prescription.

Best health wishes,

Dr. Maria Alice