The necessity of sun exposure for heart health, by Marc Sorenson, EdD…
Despite the fact that higher vitamin D levels are nearly always found to be related to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and associated diseases such as diabetes mellitus, randomized controlled trials have not found that vitamin D supplementation reduces risk of cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, vitamin D levels are likely a surrogate measurement for sun exposure, meaning that some other photoproduct such as nitric oxide (NO) may be responsible for the lowered risk of CVD. A pair of recent papers reported that leisure-time or recreational outdoor physical activity was significantly associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In a study in the U.S., both frequency and intensity of outdoor activities were associated with reduced risk, as was higher vitamin D level. When vitamin D levels were removed from the equation, an inverse association was still found between outdoor recreational activity and mortality. The authors stated the following: “The underlying mechanism for this association may not involve 25(OH)D hence, further studies are warranted to confirm and investigate the underlying mechanism.” I would suggest that nitric oxide was the protective photoproduct, produced by sun exposure, which lessened the risk of CVD with outdoor activity.
Similar findings have been found for hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart failure, stroke, and myocardial infarction (heart attack). In a study in Finland, older adults who had moderate leisure-time activity had 30-40% reduced mortality and cardiovascular disease rates than those with low activity levels, while those with high activity levels had 50% lower rates.
Two messages from this research: (1) Start living more of your life outdoors. (2) Be sure to obtain plenty of non-burning sun exposure during you outdoor activity. Your life may depend on it.
 Wang L, Song Y, Manson JE, Pilz S, März W, Michaëlsson K, Lundqvist A, Jassal SK, Barrett-Connor E, Zhang C, Eaton CB, May HT, Anderson JL, Sesso HD. Circulating 25-hydroxy-vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2012 Nov 1;5(6):819-29.
 Song Y, Wang L, Pittas AG, Del Gobbo LC, Zhang C, Manson JE, Hu FB. Blood 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels and incident type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Diabetes Care. 2013 May;36(5):1422-8.
 Veloudi P, Jones G, Sharman JE. Effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation for cardiovascular health outcomes. Pulse 2016;4:193-207 https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/452742
 Donneyong MM, Taylor KC, Kerber RA, Hornung CA, Scragg R. Is outdoor recreational activity an independent predictor of cardiovascular disease mortality – NHANES III? Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2016 Aug;26(8):735-42.
 Barengo NC, Antikainen R, Borodulin K, Harald K, Jousilahti P. Leisure-Time Physical Activity Reduces Total and Cardiovascular Mortality and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence in Older Adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2016 Dec 26. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14694. [Epub ahead of print]
By Marc Sorenson, EdD… Sun exposure benefits…
A very important paper regarding the necessity for sun exposure has recently been published by the journal Medical Hypothesis. It is entitled Regular sun exposure benefits health, and it discusses the pros and cons of sun exposure. One of the salient statements in the paper is that intermittent sun exposure may increase the risk of skin cancer, whereas regular exposure to sunlight might benefit health. For those of us who have for years studied the beneficial effects of sun exposure, the use of the word “might” is the only drawback to the statement. There is no doubt that for the majority of the population, regular sun exposure absolutely protects and enhances health.
Among the diseases mentioned as being reduced or prevented by regular sun exposure are the following:
- Cancers: Colon, breast, prostate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Multiple sclerosis
As the authors mention, most of these positive effects of sun exposure were previously ascribed to Vitamin D, but they point out that immune system function is enhanced by sun exposure beyond the effects of vitamin D, and list other non-vitamin D benefits of the sun, including:
- Production of nitric oxide
- Production of melatonin
- Production of serotonin
- Regulation of the circadian clock
I have discussed most of these items on the Sunlight Institute web site, but it was good to see new research that, in particular, separated the health benefits of sun exposure from vitamin D production. The idea that has become popularized during the past decade, that all benefits of sun exposure come from increased vitamin D production, is simply not true and can lead to the supplementation of vitamin D as a “cure” for diseases that may not be influenced by that hormone.
Of course, vitamin D is an exceptionally important photoproduct, and the only natural way to attain it is by exposure to the sun or to other sources of UVB light (such as a sunlamp or a tanning bed). The beauty of using these sources, rather than a vitamin-D capsule, is that all of the benefits of nitric oxide, melatonin, serotonin and circadian entrainment are included in the package.
Safely enjoy the sun, and you then will also safely enjoy better health. Remember not to burn, and to gradually develop a good tan.
 van der Rhee H, de Vries, E, Coebergh, J. Regular sun exposure benefits health. Medical Hypotheses 97 (2016) 34–37
By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute…
Canada has a long season each year in which vitamin D from sunlight is not available. Due to the northern latitude of Canada, May through October is the only period when vitamin D can be produced in response to sun exposure to the skin. Therefore, a new press release from the Vitamin D Society recommends to protect health by building up vitamin D during the summer. Vitamin D from the summer sun helps to prevent serious diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and others.
Dr. Reinhold Vieth, the scientific advisor for the Society, states the following: We often assume that the health benefits of sunshine are solely due to vitamin D, but that is not proven yet. In other words, it is likely that sunshine does more for our bodies than just produce vitamin D.”
Dr. Vieth is correct. Vitamin D is only one of several products of sun exposure. Others are nitric oxide, which helps prevent vascular problems, and serotonin and endorphins that enhance mood. It is likely that there are many more products of sun exposure that enhance human health.
The Society recommends 6 guidelines for safely enjoying the sun and its health benefits:
- Be moderate, and don’t burn.
- Sun exposure can produce vitamin D only during the mid-day hours, so be outside between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Know your skin type and risk of burning. Red hair and very light skin predict a greater risk of burning. (Also remember that dark skin needs more sun exposure to produce vitamin D).
- A gradual build-up of a tan protects the skin from burning.
- When the skin begins to redden, it is time to stop the sun exposure.
- Frequent but shorter sun exposure times are better for producing vitamin D.
Since about 35% of all Canadians do not meet suggested vitamin D requirements, sun exposure is essential to reverse that statistic.
So Canadians, safely enjoy the sun this summer!
To read the entire press release, go to this link: http://www.vitamindsociety.org/press_release.php?id=44
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…
We have covered the affect to sunlight and diabetes several times, but most of the posts focused on type-2, which is the more common of the two and is becoming a pandemic. Type-2 results when the body produces plenty of insulin, but becomes resistant to its effects, leaving both blood sugar and insulin elevated. Type-1 diabetes is a totally different disease, although high blood sugar is still the result. Both of these diseases, however, correlate to low sunlight exposure. Type-2 is usually caused by atrocious eating habits and obesity, but sunlight deficiency associates with its risk. Either way, these diseases can lead to blindness, erectile dysfunction, neuropathy, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, kidney disease, amputation of limbs and death. The side-effects of diabetes are usually much more harmful than the diseases themselves.
Type-1 is a disease that afflicts many babies and young people and is sometimes known as “juvenile diabetes.” It is an autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, and is totally different in its cause from type-2, which is caused by atrocious eating habits and obesity. Type one usually happens when the body’s own immune system attacks the pancreas, rendering it useless insofar as insulin production is concerned. The consumption of cow’s milk correlates very closely to contracting the disease by babies and very young children.
Here are some facts regarding the relationship between sunlight and Type-1. Australian research shows that the incidence of type-1 diabetes correlates closely with latitude; the southernmost part of the country, which has far less availability of sunlight, has about three times the incidence as the northernmost.[i] And in Newfoundland, Canada, an extremely strong inverse correlation exists between sunlight exposure and incidence.[ii] [iii] Similar results have been reported by Dr. Mohr and colleagues, who analyzed the correlation between type-one diabetes and sunlight exposure in 51 regions worldwide and drew the following conclusion: “An association was found between low UVB irradiance [sunlight exposure] and high incidence rates of type 1 childhood diabetes after controlling for per-capita health expenditure. Incidence rates of type 1 diabetes approached zero in regions worldwide with high UVB irradiance, adding new support to the concept of a role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of the disease.”[iv]
The latest study on type-1 and sunlight comes from Denmark, where researchers assessed the association between exposure to sunshine during gestation (pregnancy) and the risk of type 1 diabetes in Danish children at the age of 15 years.[v] The results were that more sunshine during the third gestational trimester was associated with a 40% reduced risk of contracting the disease at age 15.
Sunlight is so important for nearly every aspect of health. Be sure to take advantage of it, as it may be waiting right outside and beckoning you.
[i] Staples JA, Ponsonby AL, Lim LL, McMichael AJ. Ecologic analysis of some immune-related disorders, including type-1 diabetes, in Australia: latitude, regional ultraviolet radiation, and disease prevalence. Environmental Health Perspectives 2003;111:518-523.
[ii] Sloka S, Grant M, Newhook LA.. Time series analysis of ultraviolet B radiation and type-1 diabetes in Newfoundland. Pediatr Diabetes 2008;9:81-6.
[iii] Sloka S, Grant M, Newhook LA. The geospatial relation between UV solar radiation and type 1 diabetes in Newfoundland. Acta Diabetol 2010 M;47:73-8.
[iv] Mohr SB, Garland CF, Gorham ED, Garland FC. The association between ultraviolet B irradiance, vitamin D status and incidence rates of type 1 diabetes in 51 regions worldwide. Diabetologia. 2008;51:1391-8.
[v] Ramune Jacobsen, Peder Frederiksen, Berit L. Heitmann. Exposure to sunshine early in life prevented development of type 1 diabetes in Danish boys. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism. December 2015 ISSN (Online).
By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute
One of the more interesting research papers in recent memory demonstrates that the amount of sunlight during the month of birth may increase the life span of adult diabetics. The researchers studied the death records of 829,000 diabetics, 90% of whom were type 2. Among the most interesting findings was that with rapidly decreasing ultraviolet radiation (UVR or sunlight) at the time of birth, lifespan decreased in better nourished, white female diabetic population.
Diabetic males, on the other hand, gained 6.1 years of life when exposure to sunlight was increasing at birth month, whereas females gained 2.3 years.
This all makes perfect sense, since fall weather is a time of rapidly decreasing sunlight intensity and a drop in temperature, which would decrease vitamin D and other photoproducts, and cause people to be outdoors less.
The researchers concluded that “Rapidly changing UVR at the equinoxes modulates the expression of an epigenome involving the conservation of energy, a mechanism especially canalized in women. Decreasing UVR at conception and early gestation stimulates energy conservation in persons we consider ‘diabetic’ in today’s environment of caloric surfeit. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries ethnic minorities had poorer nutrition, laborious work, and leaner bodies, and in that environment a calorie-conserving epigenome was a survival advantage. Ethnic minorities with a similar epigenome lived long enough to express diabetes as we define it today and exceeded the lifespan of their nondiabetic contemporaries, while that epigenome in diabetics in the nutritional environment of today is detrimental to lifespan.”
So as I see it, those who are programmed genetically for diabetes can increase lifespan by being born at the right time of year. If only their parents had known!
 George E Davis Jr* and Walter E Lowell. Variation in ultraviolet radiation and diabetes: evidence of an epigenetic effect that modulates diabetics’ lifespan. Clinical Epigenetics 2013, 5:5.
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
Go ahead and soak up some sun! So says Dr. Holick.
It is great to have Dr. Michael Holick appearing in news articles occasionally, because he helps to stop the pervasive lies that frighten the public from partaking of life-saving sun exposure. A recent article appearing in the Washington Post, and written by Dr. Holick, makes some good points that all of us should have at our fingertips when being confronted by the anti-sun militants:
- The American Academy of Dermatology recommends never exposing bare skin to the sun, or even on a cloudy day, without sunscreen. [How about that for insanity!]
- The FDA calls ultraviolet radiation a carcinogen. [ridiculous]
- These messages cause widespread paranoia
- SPF 30 sunscreens reduce vitamin D production by 97%.
- A lack of vitamin D is associated with increased risk for Type 1 and 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, colon and breast cancer, influenza and tuberculosis.
Much of the rest of the article concentrates on putting the lie to the nonsense about hiding ourselves from the sun, as he talks about how vital vitamin D is for cancer, diabetes and other diseases. He then discusses the best way to get sunlight exposure. This is a must read!
This is the link to the article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/go-ahead-soak-up-some-sun/2015/07/24/00ea8a84-3189-11e5-97ae-30a30cca95d7_story.html.
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
Nearly all research shows a positive association between sunlight and bone strength. One of the most interesting of these studies measured heel-bone stiffness (a measurement of bone strength) and various lifestyle factors among Okinawan men with and without type-two diabetes.[i]
The research demonstrated that among the group with type-two diabetes, there were a significant negative correlation between cigarette smoking heel bone stiffness. That negative correlation also was evident with age. Other factors did not produce a significant correlation in the diabetic group; however, in the non-diabetic (control) group, a significant positive correlation was shown between heel-bone stiffness and two other factors: (1) sunlight exposure and (2) consumption of small fish. Of the two, sunlight exposure predicted greater bone strength.
It is probable that the vitamin D produced by sunlight exposure led to increased heel bone strength in the control group. It is also possible that lack of sunlight in the diabetic group may have been one of the predisposing factors that initially led to diabetes in the diabetic group, as it has been shown that vitamin D supplementation in pre-diabetic subjects predict a dramatically reduced risk of developing the full-blown disease.[ii] Sunlight exposure, of course, is the most natural way to produce vitamin D.
Keep your heels—and the rest or your bones—strong by obtaining plenty of non-burning sunlight!
[i] Michiko Gushiken, Ichiro Komiya, Shinichiro Ueda, Jun Kobayashi. Heel bone strength is related to lifestyle factors in Okinawan men with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Diabetes Invest 2015; 6: 150–157
[ii] Pittas, A. et al. The effects of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on blood glucose and markers of inflammation in nondiabetic adults. Diabetes Care 2007;30:980-86.
The article is a must read for those who want to know more about the influence of sunlight on one of the world’s fastest growing and most dangerous diseases.
By Jeanne D’Brant–
The long, hot summer is here and the sandy beaches of Long Island await our pleasure. An afternoon spent challenging the salt and spray of the south shore or quietly sitting by a north shore beach do more than relax us and put us in touch with nature.
Did you know that the amount of sunlight that you get is a major factor influencing your risk for developing diabetes? Convincing research has shown that the further you live from the equator, the greater your chances are of developing diabetes. In Finland, the risk is elevated 400 times! In 2010, a study in Germany concluded that providing adequate levels of Vitamin D for the German population could save that country a whopping 40 billion in health care costs. The good news for Long Island, by the way, is that we are not at similar latitude to most of Europe. At 41 degrees north, we are on the same latitude above the equator as Istanbul!
Vitamin D is an essential hormone that the body makes when skin is exposed to sunlight. It is created in as little as 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your age, skin color and the time of year. Long known to be essential for calcium absorption and bone health, Vitamin D is now known to play an important role in protecting not only against diabetes but also cancer, tuberculosis, autoimmune diseases and even the common cold. Sunlight on the skin has also been shown to reduce inflammation levels in both healthy people and those afflicted with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
One way that Vitamin D lowers diabetes risk is by protecting the insulin-making beta cells of the pancreas, dampening inflammatory immune signals and boosting antioxidant protection. When the skin makes vitamin D, it produces antioxidants within it to deactivate the free radicals formed by the sun’s UV radiation. This is a natural defense mechanism, a built in sunscreen. Cells also use vitamin D to directly regulate genes, including longevity genes, making it one of the most powerful compounds known in human health. Fortunately, 20 minutes of whole-body exposure to the sun can produce thousands of IUs of vitamin D, and other compounds called FIRS which have important health benefits. One study of 2100 female twins showed that having adequate vitamin D slowed the aging process, improved chronic stress levels, and extended life by five years.
* The skin of anyone 40 or older has lost much of its ability for vitamin D activation. From the point of view of evolutionary biology, by 40 we’ve pretty much had our opportunity to reproduce and make our contribution to the species: we’ve exhausted our reproductive usefulness. Vitamin D turns on genes such as the SIRT and CLOCK genes associated with longevity. Sunscreens, unfortunately, inhibit 98 percent of vitamin D production. Anticonvulsants, steroids and cholesterol-lowering medications all interfere with vitamin D metabolism. Supplementation is recommended for the aging and those taking these medications. In a very large Finnish study, infants and children who consistently took 2000 IU of vitamin D per day had a 78% reduced risk of type I diabetes.
How can you tell if you have enough Vitamin D? Your doctor can order a simple blood test called 25-OH that will show your level. Levels in the 20s are frighteningly low, numbers above 40 are more desirable, but some researchers think our levels should be 65 or more for maximum impact on the genes. If you choose to supplement, what is the recommended dose? We’ll look at supplementation facts in a future post.
Medical treatment of Vitamin D deficiency involves megadosing (50,000 units or more) once a week for six or more weeks, but many clinical nutritionists consider this strategy ill-advised. Vitamin D is known to increase absorption of heavy metals such as strontium in addition to calcium. A more prudent approach might be supplementing in the colder months and enjoying more time outdoors in the spring and summer. Remember, the human gene pool changes very slowly. While human life emerged 5 to 7 million years ago, we started living indoors less than forty thousand years ago, the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms! Current teens and twenty somethings, who spend a majority of their time indoors, are the first generation since the early 1900s to be shortening their lifespan because of their diabetes-creating lifestyle.
So turn it on in the sun this summer! Move around when outdoors, take a hike on the beach, practice safe sun, and soak up some rays as nature intended. Whether you’re spending the day at Jones Beach or Robert Moses, when the waves and the light are working their magic on you, remember that you’re helping your health in numerous ways. Not only are you allowing the relaxation response, which lowers your blood pressure and quells the raging flow of stress hormones, you are also lowering your risk for the blood sugar disorder which is a leading cause of strokes and heart attacks, the #1 killer of the Americans today.