Tag Archives: nitric oxide

High blood-pressure (hypertension) predicts stroke. Wayne overcomes it with Sunshine.

blood pressureBlood pressure is determined by (1) the amount of blood the heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries. Consequently, the more blood the heart pumps, and the tighter the arteries, the higher the blood pressure.[1]

Chronic high blood pressure, or hypertension, can damage arterial walls and can eventually lead to an increased risk from heart disease, heart failure, other arterial diseases, kidney disease, irregular heart rhythms, osteoporosis, cognitive dysfunction, painful intercourse and stroke.[2] High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is rampant in western societies. Untreated high blood pressure is a major killer. It is especially dangerous because it is primary risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

I have written several blogs on high blood pressure. Nevertheless, the experience of my friend Wayne may provide impetus for hypertension sufferers to try the sunshine solution.

Wayne, a resident of Texas, came to our former health resort seeking help for conditions of high blood pressure, obesity and various other maladies. I recommended, along with our healthful nutrition program, that he should sunbathe daily. Consequently, he “took it to heart” and could be found outside by the pool daily, dutifully soaking up the midday sunlight.

Wayne arrived at our program with a blood pressure of 157 systolic and 97 diastolic (157/97). Most noteworthy, those numbers put him at high risk for a stroke. Normal blood pressures are considered below 120 systolic, and below 80 diastolic. Four weeks later, as a result of his lifestyle changes.  His numbers dropped to 125/54, meaning that he progressed from high stroke risk to very low stroke risk. Especially relevant is the fact that these changes were accomplished without medication.

The average drop in blood pressure among all guests at that program was 16 systolic and 12 diastolic. This is remarkable, considering that many of them had normal levels coming in.

Here are just a few of the blood pressure changes accomplished during that time:

  • Frieda, from Oregon, lowered her blood pressure 33 points systolic and 30 points diastolic.
  • Joyce, from Rhode Island, lowered her blood pressure 31 points systolic and 24 points diastolic.
  • Jeff, from Utah, lowered his blood pressure 39 points systolic and 12 points diastolic.
  • Susan, from New York, lowered her blood pressure 20 points systolic and 26 points diastolic.

Was all of this success due to sun exposure?

It should not be construed that these results were all a result of sun exposure. Nor should we conclude that hypertension is a result of sun deprivation. Typical American citizens engage daily in “killer” nutrition, subjecting themselves to dietary patterns and chemical additives that never existed in human life until modern times. Therein lie the major causes of hypertension. Hence, part of the improvements in blood pressure were due to the dietary changes we implemented with our guests.

More research regarding sunlight and blood pressure:

Sun exposure can, to an extent, act as an antidote to the poisons we consume. And, it acts much more quickly than dietary changes. Consider this: Dr. Oplander and his colleagues demonstrated that whole-body Ultraviolet A (UVA) irradiation worked what seemed like a miracle.[3] It caused a rapid, significant decrease of 11% in both systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number) blood pressure 30 minutes after the exposure. That change lasted up to 60 minutes. The lowered blood pressure lasted up to 60 minutes. Not only did blood pressure decrease, but arterial blood flow increased by 68%.

Nitric oxide, a potent vasodilator (blood-vessel relaxer) that occurs with sun exposure, was the photoproduct that led to these spectacular, important changes. This is important, because UVA is available almost any time the sun shines, winter and summer. Ultraviolet B (UVB) is not available in some areas during winter, due to the sun’s angle. This is especially true in the higher latitudes of the Northern hemisphere, or in the lower latitudes of the Southern hemisphere. UVB stimulates the production of vitamin D. So, it is especially relevant here that vitamin D was not involved in the lowering of blood pressure in Dr. Oplander’s study. Nitric oxide, however, was very involved.

Let’s take a look at one more study of sun exposure and hypertension: research China demonstrates that exposure to sun correlates to a lowered risk:[4] In a randomly selected population of Chinese residents from Macau (where the rate of hypertension is very high), the following risk factors for hypertension were assessed: lack of sun exposure, low intake of fish, smoking, obesity and lack of exercise. An average of more than one-half hour of sun exposure per day, as compared to no sun exposure, predicted a 40% reduced risk for hypertension.

I could go on for another page about the horrors of blood-pressure medication, but what I have said suffices. Non-burning sun exposure is one of the best elixirs for hypertension. In conclusion, one might say that it is no wonder that Wayne overcame his blood pressure problem!

[1] Mayo Clinic Diseases and Conditions: High blood pressure (hypertension). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/basics/definition/con-20019580 (accessed January 5, 2016).

[2] Ann Pietrangelo. Healthline 2014 http://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/effect-on-body (accessed January 4, 2016).

[3] Opländer C, Volkmar CM, Paunel-Görgülü A, van Faassen EE, Heiss C, Kelm M, Halmer D, Mürtz M, Pallua N, Suschek CV.. Whole body UVA irradiation lowers systemic blood pressure by release of nitric oxide from intracutaneous photolabile nitric oxide derivates. Circ Res. 2009;105:1031–40.

[4] Ke L, Ho J, Feng J, Mpofu E, Dibley MJ, Feng X, Van F, Leong S, Lau W, Lueng P, Kowk C, Li Y, Mason RS, Brock KE. Modifiable risk factors including sun exposure and fish consumption are associated with risk of hypertension in a large representative population from Macau. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2013 Nov 1 [Epub ahead of print].

 

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Hypertension (high blood pressure) a problem? Could sun exposure alleviate it?

Hypertension, or chronic high blood pressure, is determined by the amount of blood the heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries. The more blood the heart pumps and the tighter the arteries, the higher the blood pressure.[1] The top number on a blood-pressure measurement, stated in millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg), is called systolic pressure, and the lower number is called diastolic pressure. Hypertension is defined as having a blood pressure > 140/90 mm/Hg. sun exposure hypertensionThirty-one percent of US adults are hypertensive.[2] Hypertension can damage arterial walls and can eventually lead to an increased risk of death from heart disease, heart failure, and other arterial diseases. It is also associated to a higher risk of kidney disease, irregular heart rhythms, osteoporosis, cognitive dysfunction, painful intercourse and stroke.[3] Conventional textbook theory holds that blood pressure is regulated by the brain, blood vessels, or kidney, but recent evidence suggests it could be regulated in the skin, and sun exposure plays a role in controlling hypertension.[4] 

One of the earlier studies of hypertension and sun showed hypertension increased linearly at increasing distances from the equator.[5] One study of hypertensive subjects shows that blood pressure levels average 165/90 in winter but 134/74 in the summer, and both stroke and heart attack rates double in the winter.[6] Even in children, blood pressure is higher in winter than summer.[7] This, of course, is indicative of a protective role of sun exposure on hypertension.

UVB light treatments with sun lamps have also been shown to substantially lower blood pressure in 24 hours, and over six weeks to raise serum 25(OH)D levels of vitamin D by 162%, while lowering both systolic and diastolic pressure by six points.[8]

However, it is important to again mention that there is another important player in the relationship between hypertension and sun. Ultraviolet A (UVA) light (part of sunlight) stimulation of the skin causes the release of nitric oxide (NO) from pre-formed stores of NO in the skin. NO is a potent vasodilator, and when released into the arteries by UVA stimulation, causes increased blood flow and lowered blood pressure.[9], [10]

Safe sun exposure, along with plenty of vegetable and fruit consumption, may enable you to say goodbye to blood-pressure problems.

[1] Mayo Clinic Diseases and Conditions: High blood pressure (hypertension). http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/basics/definition/con-20019580 (accessed January 5, 2016).

[2] Fields LE, Burt VL, Cutler JA, Hughes J, RoccellaEJ, Sorlie P. The burden of adult hypertension in the United States 1999–2000: a rising tide. Hypertension. 2004;44:398–404.

[3] Ann Pietrangelo. Healthline 2014 http://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/effect-on-body (accessed January 4, 2016).

[4] Johnson RS, Titze J, Weller R. Cutaneous control of blood pressure. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2016;Jan25(1):11-5.

[5] Rostand SG. Ultraviolet light may contribute to geographic and racial blood pressure differences. Hypertension. 1997 Aug;30(2 Pt 1):150-6.

[6] Charach G, Rabinovich PD, Weintraub M. Seasonal changes in blood pressure and frequency of related complications in elderly Israeli patients with essential hypertension. Gerontology. 2004 Sep-Oct;50(5):315-21

[7] Polat M, Akil I, Yuksel H, Coskun S, Yilmaz D, Erguder I, Onag A. The Effect of seasonal changes on blood pressure and urine specific gravity in children living in Mediterranean climate. Med Sci Monit2006;12:CR186-90.

[8] Krae R, Bühring M, Hopfenmüller W, Holick MF, Sharma AM. Ultraviolet B and blood pressure. Lancet 1998;352:709-10.

[9] Liu D, Fernandez BO, Hamilton A, Lang NN, Gallagher JM, Newby DE, Feelisch M, Weller RB. UVA irradiation of human skin vasodilates arterial vasculature and lowers blood pressure independently of nitric oxide synthase. J Invest Dermatol. 2014 Jul;134(7):1839-46.

[10] D Liu, BO Fernandez, NN Lang, JM Gallagher, DE Newby, M Feelisch and RB Weller. UVA lowers blood pressure and vasodilates the systemic arterial vasculature by mobilization of cutaneous nitric oxide stores. Photobiology Abstract # 1247 May 2013.

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The whole truth: why our modern life, including lack of sun exposure, is a killer.

Sun Exposure and health by Marc Sorenson, EdD…sun exposure trees

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.[1] 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.”[2]

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.

[1] http://www.mirror.co.uk/science/proof-modern-life-really-kill-10047382

[2] 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.

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Outdoor activity, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and Vitamin D. Is Sun Exposure the real Key for Protection?

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[1] and associated diseases such as diabetes mellitus,[2] randomized controlled trials have not found that vitamin D supplementation reduces risk of cardiovascular disease.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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

[4] 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.

[5] 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]

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New and interesting research on cancer and sun exposure.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, for sun exposure…

A new research paper on sun exposure and cancer has some interesting observations and some errors.[1] It is entitled, Does Sunlight protect us from cancer? Here is the abstract of the article, verbatim.

“The Ultraviolet (UV) radiation contained in sunlight is a powerful mutagen and immune suppressant which partly explains why exposure to solar UV is the biggest risk factor for the development of cutaneous tumors. Evidence is building that sunlight may be protective against some internal malignancies. Because patients with these tumors are often vitamin D deficient, this has led some to propose that vitamin D supplementation will be beneficial in the treatment of these cancers. However, the results from already completed trials have been disappointing which has given weight to the argument that there must be something else about sunlight that explains its cancer-protecting properties.”

The first sentence, of course, is false. The idea, that sun exposure is the biggest risk factor for skin cancer, is erroneous. We have presented materials many times, proving that melanoma is not caused by sun exposure, and that sun exposure is protective against that disease. And as regards common skin cancers, we have shown that high-fat nutrition, lack of antioxidants, meat consumption and alcohol intake are all risk factors. Search the blogs on this site to read the different articles.

The statement is correct, of course, that sunlight is protective against many internal cancers. Dr. Bill Grant and I are finishing our book, Embrace the Sun, where we present nearly all of the research on the protective influence of sun exposure against cancer.

The statement that vitamin D research has been disappointing is both true and false. Randomized controlled studies (RCTs) have shown the vitamin D supplements do have a protective effect against internal cancers, contrary to the statement by the researchers.

Finally, let’s look at the statement that there is something beyond vitamin D that explains the cancer-protecting properties of sun exposure. That is partially true. Beyond vitamin D, the sun causes the production of nitric oxide, serotonin, endorphin and BDNF, all of which are vital to human health, and may have their own cancer-protective properties.

The bottom line? Eat correctly (avoid junk), REGULARLY soak up some sun around midday and get plenty of exercise. That advice will be a boon to your health in myriad ways.

[1]Marshall JE, Byrne SN. Does sunlight protect us from cancer? Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2017 Jan 19. doi: 10.1039/c6pp00332j. [Epub ahead of print] 

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Health Benefits of Tanning Beds shown in new Study.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute, for sensible tanning bed use

The online magazine, Life Science Daily, just posted an article regarding the health benefits of UV light from tanning beds. Surprisingly, they were quoting from research published in the British Journal of Dermatology. I say “surprising,” because so many dermatologists and dermatological organizations are vehemently opposed to a single ray of sunlight touching the skin. And heaven forbid someone should use a tanning bed.

Three times weekly, adult subjects were exposed to a tanning bed that emitted 95% UVA rays and 5% UVB rays, which is approximately the amount of UVA and UVB that midday summer sunlight emits. Each exposure lasted six minutes. Here are some of the salient points reported in the article:

  • Any damage caused by the light exposure was repaired by the by the skin.
  • One of the positive benefits of the light was the production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure.
  • Another positive benefit was the productions of beta-endorphins, which reduce depression.
  • A third benefit, of course, is the production of vitamin D, necessary for growth and bone strength, as well as asthma prevention.

Here is one of the important quotes from the article, from Dr. Michael Holick:  “What this study shows is that you can get a reasonable amount of sunlight that would make enough vitamin D in your skin living in the U.K. Yes, the DNA is somewhat damaged, but because the body has adapted to its environment, it has the ability to repair it.”  Dr. Holick also suggested that people become educated about the wide range of health benefits from modest sun exposure, which is superior to taking vitamin D supplements.

Step by step, the truth is overcoming the powers of darkness! Seek the sun, and let a tanning bed enhance your health in the winter.

Click here to read the article. https://lifesciencedaily.com/stories/19743-study-shows-health-benefits-non-burning-exposure-uv-light/

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More Truth about Sun Exposure

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.[1] 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:

  1. Cancers: Colon, breast, prostate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  2. Multiple sclerosis
  3. Hypertension
  4. Diabetes

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:

  1. Production of nitric oxide
  2. Production of melatonin
  3. Production of serotonin
  4. 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.

[1]  van der Rhee H, de Vries, E, Coebergh, J. Regular sun exposure benefits health. Medical Hypotheses 97 (2016) 34–37

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Sun Exposure reduces Obesity; Vitamin D does not.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute…

Sun exposure reduces the risk of obesity, and that relationship has been credited to vitamin D. However, one study, conducted on mice, shows that vitamin D may have nothing to do with reducing or preventing obesity.[1] The animals were placed on a high-fat diet to cause obesity. Then they were subjected to long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR), (which is the same sunlight spectrum that leads to the production of vitamin D and other photoproducts). The UVR significantly suppressed weight gain and other measures of the metabolic syndrome (MetS), including glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, fasting insulin levels, fatty liver disease and serum cholesterol levels.

Interestingly, when the animals were supplemented with vitamin D, no such benefits occurred, meaning that UVR created the positive protections independently. However when nitric oxide was applied to the skin of the animals, the positive effects on weight loss and metabolic syndrome were again observed. Nitric oxide, of course, is another photoproduct of sun exposure, which has many positive health effects.

Other research showed that early-morning sun exposure was correlated to lower body-mass index (BMI) which is a measure of body fatness.[2] The authors of that research suggested that the mechanisms involved in weight control by early light exposure could be the following: (1) resetting the circadian rhythm (internal clock), (2) the greater quantity of blue light in morning sun and (3) effects on melatonin production. Whatever the mechanisms, we now know that early-morning sun is important to weight control. It may also be important to other health issues. But before we begin to think that sun exposure is the cure-all for obesity, realize that poor nutritional habits and lack of exercise are much more important. Nevertheless, sun exposure can furnish one more arrow in the quiver of protection from obesity.

Get your sun exposure and stay slim! Be careful not to burn.

[1] Geldenhuys S, Hart PH, Endersby R, Jacoby P, Feelisch M, Weller RB, Matthews V, Gorman S. Ultraviolet radiation suppresses obesity and symptoms of metabolic syndrome independently of vitamin D in mice fed a high-fat diet. Diabetes. 2014 Nov;63(11):3759-69.

[2] Reid KJ, Santostasi G, Baron KG, Wilson J, Kang J, Zee PC. Timing and intensity of light correlate with body weight in adults. PLoS One 2014;2;9(4)

 

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New Research paper states that Sun exposure is less dangerous than vitamin D supplements.

In a new scientific paper, Dr. MS Razzaque shows that there may be some downsides to vitamin D supplementation, including “cardiovascular events and beyond.” He also states that “since hypovitaminosis D status usually reflects reduced sunlight exposure, the obvious primary replacement should be safe sunlight exposure, and not exogenous supplements.”[1]

The paper specifically mentions that avoiding sunlight exposure may influence the initiation and progression of different types of tumors [cancer], high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. It also points out that there may be some deleterious consequences of vitamin D supplementation, although in my opinion, the dosage would need to by quite high.

As I have indicated in many of my posts on the Sunlight Institute site, sun exposure is the most natural way to obtain vitamin D, and it has no toxicity, since it is self-regulated.

What wasn’t mentioned was the production of health-promoting substances when sun touches the skin, e.g. endorphins and nitric oxide. And of course, the sun helps the brain to produce serotonin and BDNF, which are critical for proper brain function.

So soak up your sunlight but don’t burn.

[1] Razzaque MS. Sunlight exposure: Do health benefits outweigh harm? J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2016 Sep 16. [Epub ahead of print].

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High blood pressure (Hypertension). Is it caused by low vitamin D levels, sun deprivation or both?

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute… promoting safe sun exposure…

It has long been known that vitamin D deficiency is associated with hypertension. But could that association really be a measurement of inadequate sun exposure? A most interesting investigation was carried out this month (July 2016) in which the researchers evaluated over 1100 subjects from an ongoing study called “the Reasons for Racial and Geographic Differences in Stroke.” They measured vitamin D levels and also assessed sun exposure levels, and found that both high vitamin D levels and high sun exposure levels were associated with higher blood pressure.[1]

What makes this research different is that when the data was adjusted for other factors, high sun exposure was even more impressive as a protective factor against high blood pressure. However, adjusting for vitamin D levels had no effect on the association of sun exposure to lower blood pressure; for each increase in sun exposure, there was a corresponding decrease in blood pressure, but the same was not true for increases or decreases in vitamin D levels.

The researchers made this statement: “We conclude that although 25(OH)D concentration is inversely associated with SBP, it did not explain the association of greater sunlight exposure with lower BP.”

To me, this research indicates that sun exposure directly effects lower blood pressure levels, independently of vitamin D. This is not surprising, since clinical trials of vitamin D supplementation have found only small effects on blood pressure.[2]

I hypothesize that nitric oxide (NO), is the mechanism by which sun exerts its impressive effects. NO is a potent vasodilator, and when it is released into the arteries by UVA stimulation, causes increased blood flow and lowers blood pressure.[3] [4] Dr. Oplander and his colleagues wrote the first paper on the UVA, NO and blood pressure in 2009,[5] and Dr. Richard Weller has been a leader in doing research and granting interviews on NO since that time. He has made two interesting statements: (1) “We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sun will outweigh the risk of skin cancer. The work we have done provides a mechanism that might account for this, and also explains why dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sun.”[6] (2) “Although the benefits of sun are often attributed to vitamin D, a gas called nitric oxide is also important. Made when the sun hits our skin, nitric oxide lowers blood pressure when it enters the bloodstream. Although the reduction is small, it could ‘make a big difference.”[7]

A study from China also demonstrates that exposure to sun correlates to a lowered risk of hypertension.[8] In a randomly selected population of Chinese residents from Macau (where the rate of hypertension is very high), the following risk factors for hypertension were assessed: lack of sun exposure, low intake of fish, smoking, obesity and lack of exercise. An average of more than one-half hour of sun exposure per day compared to none predicted a 40% reduced risk for hypertension.

Vitamin D has many marvelous health effects, but sun exposure per se has many more, because not only does the sun stimulate the production on vitamin D, it also produces other vital photoproducts such as NO, endorphins and serotonin. When we avoid the sun and simply take a vitamin D pill, we are short-changing ourselves for the total package of benefits derived from the sun. And in the case of high blood pressure, we may be receiving almost no benefit from vitamin D. Think about it, and enjoy the sun safely.

[1] Rostand SG, McClure LA, Kent ST, Judd SE, Gutiérrez OM. Associations of blood pressure, sunlight, and vitamin D in community-dwelling adults. J Hypertens. 2016 Jul 1. [Epub ahead of print]

[2] Beveridge LA, Struthers AD, Khan F, Jorde R, Scragg R, Macdonald HM, Alvarez JA, Boxer RS. Et. al. Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis Incorporating Individual Patient Data. AMA Intern Med. 2015 May;175(5):745-54.

[3] Liu D, Fernandez BO, Hamilton A, Lang NN, Gallagher JM, Newby DE, Feelisch M, Weller RB. UVA irradiation of human skin vasodilates arterial vasculature and lowers blood pressure independently of nitric oxide synthase. J Invest Dermatol. 2014 Jul;134(7):1839-46.

[4] D Liu, BO Fernandez, NN Lang, JM Gallagher, DE Newby, M Feelisch and RB Weller. UVA lowers blood pressure and vasodilates the systemic arterial vasculature by mobilization of cutaneous nitric oxide stores. Photobiology Abstract # 1247 May 2013.

[5] Opländer C, Volkmar CM, Paunel-Görgülü A, van Faassen EE, Heiss C, Kelm M, Halmer D, Mürtz M, Pallua N, Suschek CV.. Whole body UVA irradiation lowers systemic blood pressure by release of nitric oxide from intracutaneous photolabile nitric oxide derivates. Circ Res. 2009;105:1031–40.

[6] Quoted on Mercola.com  http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/15/sun-exposure.aspx accessed July 2, 2015.

[7] Weller, R. Shunning the sun may be killing you in more ways than you think. New Scientist July 2, 2015.

[8] Ke L, Ho J, Feng J, Mpofu E, Dibley MJ, Feng X, Van F, Leong S, Lau W, Lueng P, Kowk C, Li Y, Mason RS, Brock KE. Modifiable risk factors including sun exposure and fish consumption are associated with risk of hypertension in a large representative population from Macau. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2013 Nov 1 [Epub ahead of print].

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