Tag Archives: serotonin

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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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]}

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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]}

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Is Sunlight Exposure Addictive? Thankfully, yes, because regular Sunlight Exposure PREVENTS Melanoma.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…..

 

Before proceeding with the discussion on sunlight addiction, it is important to review the truth about sunlight and melanoma, to understand why sunlight addiction may be a good thing.

A recent report on ultraviolet light and addiction[1] is obviously meant to be a hit piece regarding sunlight exposure and tanning, as seen in the opening statement: “Despite widespread awareness that UV exposure is a major risk factor for all common cutaneous malignancies, skin cancer incidence relentlessly increases by ~3% per year.”

The “all common cutaneous malignancies” portion of this statement, of course, is patently false. Whereas the relatively benign common skin cancers are increased by exposure to sunlight, melanoma is increased by avoiding the sun. If the dramatic increase in melanoma over the past century were due to sunlight exposure, then sunlight exposure must also have increased dramatically during that time. To determine whether that has happened, we analyzed data from the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS) to determine if there was an increase or decrease in human sunlight exposure during the years from 1910 to 2,000.[2] The statistics showed that indoor occupations such as  “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers grew from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment between 1910 and 2000.” BLS also stated that during the same period, the outdoor occupation of farming declined from 33% to 1.2% of total employment, a 96% reduction. The data also showed an approximately 66% decline in the occupation of farmers and 50% of the decline in the occupation of farm laborers.

The Environmental Protection Agency also determined that as of 1986, about 5 percent of adult men worked mostly outside, and that about 10 percent worked outside part of the time. The proportion of women who worked outside was thought to be even lower.[3] These data demonstrate a dramatic shift from outdoor, sun-exposed activity to indoor, non-sun-exposed activity during the mid-to-late 20th Century.

Despite these facts, the Melanoma International Foundation (MIF) has stated that melanoma has increased by 30 times (3,000%) just since 1935! Here is the statement by the MIF: “Melanoma is epidemic: rising faster than any other cancer and projected to affect one person in 50 by 2010, currently it affects 1 in 75. In 1935, only one in 1,500 was struck by the disease.”[4]  Indeed, the American Cancer Society in 2014 reported that one in 50 now contracts the disease.[5] That exponential increase in melanoma has been accompanied by a profound decrease in sunlight exposure, yet sunlight or other UV exposure is blamed for the melanoma increase—a totally counterintuitive argument! I submit that not only is sunlight not responsible for the exponential increase in melanoma, but that the decrease in sun exposure may be a major cause of that increase.

Here are other facts that belie the idea that melanoma is caused by sunlight exposure:

  1. Outdoor workers, while receiving 3-9 times the UVR exposure as indoor workers,[6] [7] have had no increase in melanoma since before 1940, whereas melanoma incidence in indoor workers has increased steadily and exponentially.
  2. Most melanomas occur on areas of the body that are seldom or never exposed to the sunlight.[8] [9] [10]
  3. The use of sunscreen, which has increased steadily, has not resulted in a decrease in melanoma.[11] In fact, melanoma has increased as sunscreen use has become more widespread. Since sunscreens block sunlight, it is evident that at best they are a waste of money and at worst may be contributing to the increase in melanoma.

Now, let’s discuss the research on the aforementioned addiction to sunlight. The researchers conducted various experiments on mice that showed behavior choices, such as desiring lighter rather than darker environments, were increased by regular exposure. These behavior choices were mediated by β-endorphins, peptide hormones which are similar to opiates. So is this all bad? This marvelous product, β-endorphin, is one of the feel-good hormones that decreases pain and increases a sense of well-being. The case the researchers make regarding addiction to sunlight is compelling, and why not? Sunlight exposure causes vitamin D production in the skin, which is essential to human health; it also stimulates the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes our vessels and lowers our blood pressure; it stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain, which is another feel-good hormone necessary for a happy mood and wellbeing. And considering the myriad additional effects of sunlight on health, including the prevention of cancer, the prevention and reversal of bone diseases and the reduction of heart disease, could it not be part of God’s (or Nature’s) master plan to develop a positive addiction to sunlight so than our health could be enhanced? I am a sunlight addict, and expose myself to it regularly for two reasons: (1) It marvelously improves my mood and (2) it protects me from disease and weakness. I am a light-skinned, blue-eyed Caucasian who has spent much of my seven decades on this earth seeking the sun. Yet, there have been no melanomas or even common skin cancer.

Nevertheless, the researchers summarize their paper on sun addiction with the following: “While primordial UV addiction, mediated by the hedonic [pertaining to pleasure] action of β-endorphin and anhedonic effects of withdrawal, may theoretically have enhanced evolutionary vitamin D biosynthesis, it now may contribute to the relentless rise in skin cancer incidence in man.”

That summary statement is claptrap, as can be seen by the research on melanoma and sunlight presented above. If sunlight is addictive and helps me to avoid melanoma, heart disease, bone loss and other maladies, I can only say, “hooray for the addiction!”

[1] Gillian L. Fell, Kathleen C. Robinson, Jianren Mao, Clifford J. Woolf, and David E.

Fisher. Skin β-endorphin mediates addiction to ultraviolet light. Cell. 2014 June 19; 157(7): 1527–1534.

[2] Ian D. Wyatt and Daniel E. Hecker.  Occupational changes in the 20th century.  Monthly Labor Review, March 2006 pp 35-57:  Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics

[3] U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Catching Our Breath: Next Steps for Reducing Urban Ozone, OTA-O-412 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, July 1989).

[4] Melanoma International Foundation, 2007 Facts about melanoma. Sources: National Cancer Institute 2007 SEER Database, American Cancer Society’s 2007 Facts and Figures, The Skin Cancer Foundation, The American Academy of Dermatology.

[5] American Cancer Society. Melanoma Skin Cancer Overview 9/16/2014. Accessed on 9/23/2014 at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/overviewguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-overview-key-statistics

[6] Godar D. UV doses worldwide. Photochem Photobiol 2005;81:736–49.

[7] Thieden E, Philipsen PA, Sandby-Møller J, Wulf HC. UV radiation exposure related to age, sex, occupation, and sun behavior based on time-stamped personal dosimeter readings. Arch Dermatol 2004;140:197–203.

[8] Garland FC, White MR, Garland CF, Shaw E, Gorham ED. Occupational sunlight exposure and melanoma in the USA Navy. Arch Environ Health 1990; 45:261-67.

[9] Rivers, J.  Is there more than one road to melanoma? Lancet 2004;363:728-30.

[10] Crombie, I. Racial differences in melanoma incidence.  Br J Cancer 1979;40:185-93.

[11] Phillippe Autier. Do high factor Sunscreens offer protection from melanoma? West J Med. 2000 Jul; 173(1): 58.

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Vitamin D Society says That Humans are Vitamin D Factories.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

In a new media release from Toronto, the Vitamin D Society asserts that “The importance of natural sunlight to human life cannot be understated.” It goes on to quote Dr. Reinhold Vieth, a scientist and professor at the University of Toronto. “There really is no substitute for natural sunlight in human health. Your skin is like a solar receptor and has the amazing capacity to manufacture all of the vitamin D your body needs. Everyone has the capability to generate vitamin D.”

There is a problem, however, as I posted recently. About a third of Canadians, about 12 million people, do not meet the minimum Health Canada guidelines for vitamin D levels. The reason? Sunlight deficiency.

Perry Holman, executive director of the Society, states that “This is not a call for people to ignore the warnings about over-exposure to sunlight but a call for people to exercise common sense and ensure they are not shutting themselves out from the vital health benefits of natural sunlight.”

Of course, in the winter, when no vitamin D production is available, it will be necessary to find another source of vitamin-D stimulating light. Sunlamps are ideal, provided they produce UVB light.

Also remember, that during winter, sunlight still raises serotonin levels and produces nitric oxide, both of which are necessary to human health. The value of sunlight goes far beyond its ability to promote vitamin D production in the skin.

For more information on the Vitamin D Society, visit www.vitamindsociety.org.

 

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Beware the anti-depressant drugs. Use sunshine instead.

We have discussed the extraordinary ability of sunlight exposure or other bright-light exposure to profoundly increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that is a potent mood enhancer. The most remarkable research on this subject was by Dr. Gavin Lambert and his colleagues in Australia. They measured serotonin levels in response to varying degrees of bright light.[1] To do this, they actually took blood samples from 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. NO WONDER WE FEEL SO GOOD WHEN WE ARE OUTSIDE IN THE SUMMERTIME!

The most popular anti-depressant drugs also work by keeping serotonin levels higher, but there are frightening side-effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), indicates that antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) may increase depression in some cases and lead to suicidal thoughts.  Some of the brands involved are Paxil, Lexapro, Prozac, Effexor, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Luvox, Celexa and Serzone, although the FDA listed 34 drugs.  The entire list is at fda.gov/cder/drug/antidepressants/.  They state the following: “The Food and Drug Administration asks manufacturers of all antidepressant drugs to include in their labeling a boxed warning and expanded warning statements that alert health care providers to an increased risk of suicidality in children and adolescents being treated with these agents, and additional information about the results of pediatric studies.”

The FDA lists several additional warnings and instructions about these drugs:

  • Antidepressants increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children and adolescents with MDD (major depressive disorder) and other psychiatric disorders.

  • Anyone considering the use of an antidepressant in a child or adolescent for any clinical use must balance the risk of increased suicidality with the clinical need.

  • Patients who are started on therapy should be observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior.

  • Families should be advised to closely observe the patient and to communicate with the prescriber.

Missing are two important facts: (1) SSRI’s increase bone loss.[2] Women who used SSRI’s lose nearly 80% more bone per year than non-users! And as expected, later research shows that SSRI use correlated to a 75% greater likelihood of sustaining a fracture.[3] Secondly, SSRI’s don’t work very well. A meta-analysis of data on SSRI’s submitted to the FDA indicates that placebos (sugar pills) are as effective as SSRI’s in reducing depression; [4] in other words, only drug companies benefit from SSRI’s—not depression sufferers.

Based on that information, it seems prudent to increase our endorphins (and our happiness) through sunlight exposure. It is what nature intended.

 

[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] Diem SJ, Blackwell TL, Stone KL, Yaffe K, Haney EM, Bliziotes MM, Ensrud KE.. Use of antidepressants and rates of hip bone loss in older women; the study of osteoporotic fractures.  Arch Intern Med 2007:167:1231-32.

[3] Sheu YH, Lanteigne A, Stürmer T, Pate V, Azrael D, Miller M5. SSRI use and risk of fractures among perimenopausal women without mental disorders. Inj Prev. 2015 Jun 25. pii: injuryprev-2014-041483. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2014-041483. [Epub ahead of print]

[4] Kirsch, I. et al.  Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. PLoS Medicine 2008;5:e45.  doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050045

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