Tag Archives: serotonin

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

Read More

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].

Read More

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].

Read More

Vitamin D Society recommends Summer Sun to build up D Levels.

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:

  1. Be moderate, and don’t burn.
  2. Sun exposure can produce vitamin D only during the mid-day hours, so be outside between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  3. 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).
  4. A gradual build-up of a tan protects the skin from burning.
  5. When the skin begins to redden, it is time to stop the sun exposure.
  6. 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

Read More

Men, protect your Prostate!. Research demonstrates a positive influence of Sun Exposure on Prostate Cancer.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute.

Regular sun exposure is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of many cancers. Although the relationship of sun exposure (and vitamin D) to the risk of prostate cancer is controversial, a study from Australia, published in 2011, showed that the less sun exposure, the greater the risk of the cancer.[1] The researchers investigated the relationship between prostate cancer incidence and solar radiation in non-urban Australia and found an inverse association. There are many other studies that indicate a protective effect of sun exposure. One of the earliest was conducted by Dr. Esther John and her colleagues: they compared the lifetime sun exposure of 450 white men with advanced prostate cancer to that of 455 white men who did not have cancer.[2] The men were divided into quintiles according to the amount of exposure they had received.  Subjects in the highest fifth of sun exposure had only 51% of the risk of prostate cancer as did those in the lowest quintile.

Another study on cancer that corroborated these observations was entitled: Is prevention of cancer by sun Exposure more than just the effect of vitamin D? A systematic review of epidemiological studies.[3] In their review, the authors noted that regular sun exposure correlated to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). However, vitamin D levels correlated to a reduced risk of colorectal, and to a lesser extent, breast cancer, but were not correlated to a significant risk reduction in prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The authors concluded with this statement: “Particularly in prostate cancer and NHL, other sun-potentiated and vitamin D-independent pathways, such as modulation of the immune system and the circadian rhythm, and the degradation of folic acid, might play a role in reduced cancer risk as well.” These researchers did well to remind us, that as important as vitamin D is to the human body, other effects of sun exposure may be more important in some diseases. The authors could have also mentioned the effect of sun on vasodilation, mediated by the production of nitric oxide (produced by the skin after sun exposure). They could also have discussed the influence of sun on production of serotonin and endorphins, all of which may have contributed to their observations.

Other research used childhood sunburn as a measure of UVR exposure and determined that men who had sunburned as children had only about one-fifth the risk of contracting prostate cancer as those who had not sunburned.[4]  A note of caution! We are not recommending that anyone sunburn in order to prevent prostate or other types of cancer. Sunburn was used in this research to predict higher vitamin D levels, but it is not necessary to achieve those levels, since non-burning sun exposure achieves the same results. This research also demonstrated that men with lowest level of UVR exposure had more than triple the risk of prostate cancer and that onset of the disease was delayed more than four years in those who had the greatest exposure compared to those who had the least exposure.  A follow-up to this study, reported that men in the lowest quartile of sunbathing were linked to a 5.33-fold greater risk of prostate cancer than those in the highest quartile. Still other research has indicated that “higher levels of cumulative exposure, adult sunbathing, childhood sunburn and regular holidays in hot climates were each independently and significantly associated with a reduced risk of this [prostate] cancer.[5]

So men, protect your prostate by regular, non-burning sun exposure. Don’t let the Powers of Darkness frighten you away from the sun.

[1] Loke TW, Seyfi D, Khadra M. Prostate cancer incidence in Australia correlates inversely with solar radiation. BJU Int. 2012 Apr;109 Suppl 3:75.

[2] John EM, Schwartz GG, Koo J, Van Den Berg D, Ingles SA.  Sun exposure, vitamin D receptor gene polymorphisms, and risk of advanced prostate cancer.  Cancer Res 2005;65(12):5470-79.

[3] van der Rhee H, Coebergh JW, de Vries E. Is prevention of cancer by sun exposure more than just the effect of vitamin D? A systematic review of epidemiological studies. Eur J Cancer. 2013 Apr;49(6):1422-36.

[4] Moon SJ, Fryer AA, Strange RC.  Ultraviolet radiation: effects on risks of prostate cancer and other internal cancers.  Mutat Res 2005;571(1-2):207-19.

[5] Bodiwala D, Luscombe CJ, Liu S, Saxby M, French M, Jones PW, Fryer AA, Strange RC..  Prostate cancer risk and exposure to ultraviolet radiation: further support for the protective effect of sun.  Cancer Lett 2003;192:145-49.

Read More

More on Sun Exposure and Depression

Does sun exposure help fight depression? Of course!

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Exposure

Although this blog has discussed sun exposure and its affects on depression, there is some information that I may have neglected to mention. It has been shown that depressed psychiatric patients who resided in sunny rooms stayed in the hospital 2.6 fewer days than those who had “dull” rooms.[1] The sunny rooms had windows, so it is likely that endorphins and serotonin, created by the sun entering the windows, were the natural “uppers” by which the patients felt better. Nitric oxide, produced by UVA light exposure, could also have played a part.

Another of those dull rooms is the one that houses the TV. An interesting study from the University of Pittsburgh found that the more TV teenagers watched, the more likely they were to be depressed as adults.[2] The study author theorized that because there is so much depressing news and programming on TV, the more exposure, the more the internalizing or the depressing programming. For each hour of TV watched, the rate of depression increased significantly.

The researchers may be correct, or it could be that hours of sedentary life in front of the TV, watching commercials for junk food, leads to obesity and poor health as the teenager ages.  We have another theory that may supplant, or at least add to those theories. It is possible that years of unnatural indoor habits create deficiency of the aforementioned vitamin D, nitric oxide, endorphins and serotonin, which may have long-term effects. Combined with the deleterious influences of excessive TV watching, that could be a recipe for depression and health disasters. Sun exposure and vitamin D are absolutely necessary for human health and happiness.  An indoor lifestyle is unnatural and damaging to the human body and psyche.

Safely embrace the sun and obtain its “feel-good” effects.

 

[1] Beauchemin KM, Hays P. Sunny hospital rooms expedite recovery from severe and refractory depressions. J Affect Disord. 1996 Sep 9;40(1-2):49-51.

[2]Primack, B.  Association between media use in adolescence and depression in young adulthood: a longitudinal study.  Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009 Feb;66(2):181-8

Read More

Sun Exposure, artificial Light and Weight Control

Sun Exposure, artificial light and weight control. Marc Sorenson, EdD… Sunlight Institute

Sun exposure gives life and has so many positive effects, including anticancer, anti-heart disease, and anti-osteoporosis. Unnatural light, however can do exactly the opposite. In the case of obesity, artificial light at night (ALAN) can lead to weight gain, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity.[1]

The hormone melatonin works in conjunction with serotonin during each daily physiological cycle, known as the circadian rhythm. Serotonin is a natural “upper” that awakens our senses and prepares us for our workday. Then, when the rhythms are properly synchronized, as evening comes, serotonin decreases and melatonin, a sleep inducer, takes over so that we can sleep soundly and awake refreshed as daylight and serotonin once more take over. However, a monkey wrench is often thrown into the works. It is called artificial light at night (ALAN), and it may be one of many factors that lead to obesity. ALAN inhibits melatonin production, a factor in both obesity and cancer.

The researchers looked at satellite images of 80 countries, assessed the amount of ALAN emitted from each country and then compared the rates of obesity in each. The data was adjusted to take into consideration the differing dietary patterns in each country, as well as the urban vs rural population and other factors that would influence obesity.

The results showed, that after all adjustments, ALAN emerged as a prominent predictor for obesity.

So how does this relate to sun exposure? One of my recent posts noted the results of research on early morning sun exposure and obesity, noting that early sun exposure inhibited obesity dramatically.[2] So not all light is good. Light at night is harmful; early morning sun exposure is wonderful. And if one wants to remain slim, it is imperative to eschew junk food, exercise and get plenty of non-burning sun exposure.

[1] Rybnikova NA, Haim A, Portnov BA. Does artificial light-at-night exposure contribute to the worldwide obesity pandemic? International Journal of Obesity. Int J Obes (Lond). 2016 May;40(5):815-23.

[2] Reid KJ, Santostasi G, Baron KG, Wilson J, Kang J, et al. Timing and Intensity of Light Correlate with Body Weight in Adults. PLoS ONE 2014 9(4): e92251. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092251

Read More

Sun Exposure, Chronic Fatigue and Vitamin D

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…

A recent post by an online paper called The Korea Bizwire talks of research by Dr. Emad Al Duzahiri, in which he concludes that those who are suffering from chronic fatigue may really be suffering from sun deficiency.[1] The article mentions that vitamin D, preferably from sun exposure, is essential for reducing the risk of the disease.

There is at least one additional study indicating that optimization of vitamin D improves the severity of symptoms in those who suffer from fatigue.[2]

Remember that sun exposure is the best way to obtain your vitamin D, because it also comes along with serotonin, nitric oxide, endorphins and perhaps dopamine, and it profoundly improves the mood—just what the doctor ordered for chronic fatigue.

So when your get-up-and-go has gotten up and gone, don’t forget the sun!

[1] Emad Al Duzahiri. Quoted in The Korea Bizwire, January 19, 2016. http://koreabizwire.com/lack-of-exposure-to-sunlight-may-lead-to-chronic-fatigue/48480 (accessed January 20, 2016)

[2] Roy S, Sherman A, Monari-Sparks MJ, Schweiker O, Hunter K. Correction of Low Vitamin D Improves Fatigue: Effect of Correction of Low Vitamin D in Fatigue Study (EViDiF Study). N Am J Med Sci. 2014 Aug;6(8):396-402.

Read More

It’s a SAD Time of Year in Canada and the U.S. Can we cure it with Vitamin D?

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…

A recent press release from the Vitamin D Society of Canada discusses the need for vitamin D in the winter, in order to reduce the risk and intensity of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a feeling of low motivation, depressed mood, decreased concentration, anxiety and despair.

Dr. Samantha Kimball, the scientific advisor for the Society, has found that increasing vitamin D intake can help reduce the symptoms of SAD. She mentions that vitamin D, which is generated in the body by sunlight exposure, can modulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, thereby reducing the risk of depression.

Dr. Kimball is correct; the change can be absolutely dramatic based on serum vitamin D levels. One remarkable piece of research showed that those persons who had the lowest levels of D had almost 12 times as likely to be depressed as those who had the highest levels.[1]

Although I fully agree with Dr. Kimball, I can’t help but wish she had mentioned more on the benefits of the sunlight or even sunlamps, which are the most natural ways to increase vitamin D, but are also marvelously effective in improving mood beyond vitamin D.

In addition to vitamin D, there is a chemical produced by the brain in response to sunlight exposure to the eyes. It is called serotonin and is a natural “upper” or mood enhancer. It is also a neurotransmitter and is available to us from bright light entering the eyes. Even is Canada in winter, when there is no vitamin-D stimulating potential in sunlight, just being outdoors when there is sunshine will work to improve or prevent SAD.  Sunlight can dramatically increase serotonin levels in the brain.

Dr. Gavin Lambert and his colleagues in Australia measured serotonin levels in response to varying degrees of bright light.[2] To do this, they drew blood samples from the internal jugular veins of 101 men and compared the serotonin concentration of the blood to weather conditions and seasons. The results were remarkable: Men who were measured on a very bright day produced eight times more serotonin than those who were measured on a cloudy, dismal day. They also observed that the effect of bright light was immediate, and that there was no holdover from day to day. Serotonin levels were also seven times higher in summer than winter. There we have another answer to SAD. When the sun is shining, wherever you are, take advantage of it. It will elevate your mood and make you feel more alive. And remember that tanning beds and other types of sunlight do a great job of increasing your vitamin D when the sun doesn’t shine. Finally, bright, full-spectrum lighting will also enhance your mood. Merry Christmas and HAPPY Holidays!

Click this link to read the Vitamin D Society press release: http://www.vitamindsociety.org/press_release.php?id=39

 

[1] Wilkins CH, Sheline YI, Roe CM, Birge SJ, Morris JC. Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults.  Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 2006;14:1032–1040).

[2] Lambert GW, Reid C, Kaye DM, Jennings GL, Esler MD. Effect of sunlight and season on serotonin turnover in the brain. Lancet. 2002 Dec 7;360(9348):1840-2.

Read More

Lack of Sunlight may cause Females to become aggressive!

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

Serotonin is one of the most potent natural mood enhancers produced in the body. As previously mentioned in one of my blogs, men whose levels of serotonin were measured on a very bright day produced eight times more serotonin than those who were measured on a cloudy, dismal day. Serotonin levels were also seven times higher in summer than winter.[1] Serotonin works in concert with melatonin; serotonin keeps keeps us bright and happy during the sunny day and melatonin lets lets us sleep during the dark night. Unfortunately, lack of sunlight in winter may also lead to too much daytime melatonin production, which may lead to aggressive behavior.

A 2015 report from Proceedings of the Royal Academy B, demonstrated that female rats who had the least sunlight exposure per day displayed the most aggression.[2] A similar increase in aggression was not observed in male rats.

An increase in melatonin was given as the reason for the aggression, since when winter approaches, sunlight decreases and melatonin increases. (Of course, serotonin also decreases, as stated in the aforementioned research.) Melatonin increases aggression, according to this study, by acting on the adrenal glands, causing a release of a hormone called DHEA, which has been consistently been linked to aggression in both mammals and birds.

I’m not entirely convinced that that aggression was not caused more by the drop in serotonin than the increase in melatonin. Either way, you boyfriends and husbands should be sure that your lady love gets plenty of sunlight or other form of UV light every day of the year, or you may be in trouble!

[1] Lambert GW, Reid C, Kaye DM, Jennings GL, Esler MD. Effect of sunlight and season on serotonin turnover in the brain. Lancet. 2002 Dec 7;360(9348):1840-2.

[2] Proceedings of the Royal Academy B 2015. Reported by Carly St. James, Empire State News. http://www.empirestatenews.net/2015/11/19/a-spike-in-female-aggression-can-be-linked-to-this-seasonal-change/ [accessed November 19, 2015]}

Read More
1 2