Sun Exposure and health by Marc Sorenson, EdD…
A very interesting study has been completed in a remote area of South America.
An indigenous tribe from the remote Bolivian Amazon jungle, known as the Tsimane, has been found to have the world’s healthiest arteries. People there survive on a diet low in saturated fats and high in non-processed foods. One of the researchers stated that “Our study shows that the Tsimane indigenous South Americans have the lowest prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis of any population yet studied.”
Here are some of the lifestyle habits and facts regarding the Tsimane.
- The diet is fiber rich.
- The diet is approximately 75% non-processed carbohydrates. Isn’t that supposed to make us fat?
- The diet includes rice, plantain (a type of banana), corn, nuts, and a very small amount of animal meat.
- Smoking is almost non-existent.
- Only three per cent of the people had moderate to high heart disease risk; two-thirds of them over 75 years of age had virtually no risk. The article states that only 14% of Americans had no risk, and that half had a moderate or high risk—about 5 times higher than the Tsimane.
- Men spend six to seven hours of their day being physically active, whereas women spend four to six hours. This, of course, means plenty of sun exposure.
During most of my professional career, I have advised people to live on this type of diet, but without the meat or any other animal product. In addition we helped them to exercise several hours daily outside. During that time, my wife and I have observed that people have recovered from diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and other maladies. That is no surprise, considering this new research and many other studies. Vitamin D and nitric oxide, both photoproducts, are exceptionally important to human health, but when it comes to heart disease, nitric oxide is probably the operative photoproduct. Here is a quote from Dr. Richard Weller, a common-sense dermatologist and great researcher:
“Sunlight may have beneficial cardiovascular effects, independently of Vitamin D production. Vitamin D could in these circumstances act as a marker for sunlight exposure and its postulated beneficial effects.” “These recent human data show the physiological relevance of photorelaxation. High blood pressure is the leading cause of disability adjusted life years lost worldwide and as a risk factor underlies 18% of all deaths.” The study noted: “The action spectrum of nitrite release shows that ultraviolet B is also involved in nitrite reduction to Nitric Oxide, and thus sunlight may be more effective than a pure UVA source.” The study concluded: “the prevalence of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular deaths is around 100 times higher than those from skin cancer. Interventions leading to small changes in the incidence of cardiovascular disease are thus of greater benefit to the health of the public even than large changes in skin cancer incidence.”
The Tsimane, therefore, are living (unknowingly) an almost perfect lifestyle for optimal health. To stay well, it is imperative that we do the same, although we don’t need quite that much sun exposure. Remember to build up a tan and be safe in the sun.
 Weller R. The health benefits of UV radiation exposure through vitamin D production or non-vitamin D pathways. Blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Photochem. Photobiol. Sci. 2016, DOI: 10.1039/C6PP00336B.