Children’s diseases associated with sun deprivation. by Marc Sorenson, EdD
Children’s diseases that are associated with sun deprivation are legion. So, how do I know this? Because my last five blogs discussed this topic, and I’m a long way from finishing the theme.
To subject our children to sun deprivation is child abuse. It results in either lifelong or temporary children’s diseases.
So, the first of the children’s diseases discussed this week will be acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI). In addition, the second will be attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
ALRI are a leading cause of sickness and mortality both in children and adults worldwide. Furthermore, ALRI are not uniformly defined and this may hamper a true appreciation of their importance. Also, from an epidemiological point of view, the definition of acute lower respiratory infections includes other diseases. The most noteworthy of these diseases are acute bronchitis and bronchiolitis, influenza and pneumonia. The NCBI also states that acute respiratory infections, and particularly lower respiratory tract infections are deadly. Another fact is that these diseases are the leading cause of death among children under five years of age. Especially relevant is that they are estimated to be responsible for between 1.9 million and 2.2 million childhood deaths globally.
Studies regarding children’s diseases indicate that sun exposure has protective effects, whether due to vitamin D production or another factor.
First of all, in one study, children placed outside in sunlight were less than half as likely to suffer ALRI. Another investigation on sunlight compared vitamin D levels and sun exposure habits in children with and without ALRI. And, there was virtually no difference in vitamin D levels between the sick and healthy groups. Yet, those children who had a higher percentage of the body exposed to sunlight were less likely to have ALRI. Therefore, this reinforces the fact that sun exposure has preventive effects beyond vitamin D for children’s diseases.
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is another of the disheartening children’s diseases.
ADHD is the most prevalent of mental disorders in children. And, it causes significant problems with executive functions (e.g. attentional control and inhibitory control). In addition, it causes attention deficits, hyperactivity, or impulsiveness not appropriate for a person’s age. Thus, it is certainly another of the important children’s diseases. Also, researchers have found that sun exposure correlates to a decreased risk of ADHD. The investigators assessed the relationship between ADHD prevalence and sun intensity in various nations and in US states. As a result, they found a close association between low sunlight intensity and the prevalence of ADHD. Another finding was that it explained 34%–57% of the variance in ADHD prevalence, with high sunlight intensity having a preventive effect.
It seems like the advice to deprive our children of sun exposure, in order to a prevent melanoma, is disastrous. Do we want to increase the chance of ALRI, ADHD or other children’s diseases we have already discussed? In conclusion, let’s love our children and be sure that they receive plenty of regular, non-burning sun exposure. And for more information, read the book, Embrace the Sun.
It is interesting that the authors suggested that that the mechanism by which sunlight accomplishes this improvement could be a positive change in the circadian rhythm, a factor that had previously been associated with ADHD. It was also interesting that the researchers did not mention vitamin D production by sunlight, since several studies have shown an association between low vitamin D and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, brain development in baby rats, autism, anxiety and depression. Rats born to vitamin D deficient mothers also have permanently damaged brains into adulthood,and exhibit hyperactivity.In addition, recent research shows that adult vitamin D deficiency leads to behavioral and brain alterations in mice.
Considering the aforementioned effects of vitamin D deficiency on the brain, it is not surprising that sunlight, which stimulates the skin to produce vitamin D, correlates to a reduced risk of ADHD. It is a mystery that the authors did not consider vitamin d production as the mechanism that leads to the improvement.
Let’s soak up some sunlight, get rid of hyperactivity and start focusing on those things that are important—a good idea for both children and adults!
Martijn Arns, Kristiaan B. van der Heijden, L. Eugene Arnold, and J. Leon Kenemans. Geographic Variation in the Prevalence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: The Sunny Perspective. Biol Psychiatry 2013;15;74:585-90.