Sun Exposure and health by Marc Sorenson, EdD…
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. 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.”
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.
 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.
Sun exposure. By Marc Sorenson, EdD…
Endometrial cancer, also called corpus uterine cancer, is a reproductive cancer that takes the lives of many women. There are 60,050 new cases yearly from endometrial cancer and there are 10,470 deaths. Like many cancers such as breast and prostate cancer, sun exposure may have remarkable protective effects that should not be ignored.
Endometrial cancer mortality rates were found to be strongly inversely correlated with sun exposure in Dr. William Grant’s ecological studies.  Other research, using Spanish data, found an inverse correlation between endometrial cancer mortality and sun exposure assessed by using latitude as an index of sun exposure—higher latitude means less sun exposure, which means greater cancer risk. Corroborating this finding was research from Sweden; this 15.5-year study showed a 20% decrease in the risk of endometrial cancer among women who sunbathed in the summer, and a 40% decrease in risk in those who used a sunbed more than three times per year. When the data was adjusted for confounding factors such as body-mass index and physical activity, the decrease in the risk of endometrial cancer was 50%!
The takeaway from this information is this: Don’t be taken in by the anti-sun cabal. Read all the facts before making a decision. And, always take care not to burn, whether in the sun or in a sunbed.
 Grant WB. An estimate of premature cancer mortality in the U.S. due to inadequate doses of solar ultraviolet-B radiation. Cancer. 2002 Mar 15;94(6):1867-75.
 Grant WB, Garland CF. The association of solar ultraviolet B (UVB) with reducing risk of cancer: multifactorial ecologic analysis of geographic variation in age-adjusted cancer mortality rates. Anticancer Res. 2006 Jul-Aug;26(4A):2687-99.
Grant, WB. An ecologic study of cancer mortality rates in Spain with respect to indices of solar UVB irradiance and smoking. Int J Cancer 2007;120:1123-28.
 Epstein E, Lindqvist PG, Geppert B, Olsson H. A population-based cohort study on sun habits and endometrial cancer Br J Cancer. 2009;101(3):537-40.
Benefits of sun exposure, by Marc Sorenson, EdD…
Interesting research regarding the critical necessity of sun exposure continues to mount.
There is no doubt that lack of sun exposure leads to disease, and a major factor in that scenario is a disrupted circadian rhythm. Researchers have stated that “Exposure to sunlight during the day, and darkness at night, optimally entrains biological rhythms to promote homeostasis and human health. Unfortunately, a major consequence of the modern lifestyle is increased exposure to sun-free environments during the day and artificial lighting at night.” Night-shift work is one of the worst contributors to the disruption of our natural biological rhythms, also known as circadian rhythms, and it certainly defines the sun-free environment discussed. There is a strong association of night-shift work to many diseases, but one of the most prevalent of these is breast cancer.
So what is natural and good for the health? Researchers have shown that a disrupted circadian rhythm can be reprogrammed, or “entrained” by exposure to a natural summer, meaning a cycle of 14 hours, 40 minutes of summer light, to 9 hours, 20 minutes of darkness. The authors state that this “light-dark cycle programs the human circadian clock to solar time, such that the internal biological night begins near sunset and ends near sunrise.”
Such a cycle would certainly seems natural for humans who were raised on ranches or farms where the day’s activities begins early in the morning sunlight and usually end near sunset. I know, because that pattern described my youth. For primitive peoples, that cycle was probably a necessity to gather the food necessary for survival. It is now ingrained in to our DNA, and disruption leads to disease.
So how are circadian rhythms reset to help our health? According to the aforementioned research (footnote 2), it can be accomplished by either a week of natural light exposure, or a weekend spent camping in nature. I am a camper, and I know that when the sun goes down, I am ready to sleep, and when the sun rises the next morning, I’m ready to start my day’s adventures.
The message here is that daytime should be spent outside in natural light. This will probably reduce the risk of many diseases, including breast cancer. It is also imperative that our skin receives its sun exposure to produce vitamin D and other healthful photoproducts. In addition being outside in the sun will increase our production of serotonin and enhance our moods.
Safely embrace the sun and save your life! Be sure not to burn.
 Ball L, Palesh, O, Kriegsfeld L. The Pathophysiologic Role of Disrupted Circadian and Neuroendocrine Rhythms in Breast Carcinogenesis. Endocr Rev. 2016 Oct;37(5):450-466.
 Stothard ER, McHill AW, Depner CM, Birks BR, Moehlman TM, Ritchie HK, Guzzetti JR, et al.
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, for sun exposure.
According to a new study, people with MS feel better when they spend more time in the sunshine. Not only will they feel better, but they will have lower rates of fatigue, and a slower progression to disability. None of this should be a surprise, since similar results have been reported for decades. For example, in 1922 Dr. Charles Davenport wrote a paper entitled, “Multiple Sclerosis from the standpoint of geographic distribution and race. He analyzed the MS rate of military draftees and compared it to their states of origin. The highest rates were found in men who grew up in Michigan, Wisconsin, and the extreme northwest—all areas with low sun availability. There were few cases of MS among those who grew up in southern states, where sun availability is abundant. He also noted that those from urban areas, which have lower sun availability than rural areas, had 50% higher MS rates than those from rural areas. Similar studies confirm that relationship. 
Another interesting research paper demonstrated that sun exposure, while obviously being critical in the production of vitamin D, had its own profound influence in lessening the degeneration of nerves (neurodegeneration) in those with MS. By measuring whole brain volume (WBV) and grey-matter volume (GMV) by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the scientists determined that greater summer sun exposure predicted greater WBV and GMV in MS patients. Interestingly though, when vitamin D levels were measured, they had no influence on the positive effects of sun exposure with WBV or GMV. The researchers concluded: “Sun exposure may have direct effects on MRI measures of neurodegeneration in MS, independently of vitamin D.”
Be sure that you soak up your share of sunlight, without burning of course. It may indeed save your life!
 Davenport, C. Multiple Sclerosis from the standpoint of geographic distribution and race. Arch Neurol Psychiatry 1922;8:
 Acheson ED, Bachrach CA, Wright FM. Some comments on the relationship of the distribution of multiple sclerosis to altitude, solar radiation and other variables. Acta Psychiat (Scand) 1960;35 (suppl 147):132-47. 51-58
 Norman JE Jr, Kurtzke JF, Beebe GW. Epidemiology of multiple sclerosis in USA veterans: 2. Latitude, climate, and risk of multiple sclerosis. J Chron Dis 1983;36:551-59
 Zivadinov R, Treu CN, Weinstock-Guttman B, Turner C, Bergsland N, O’Connor K, Dwyer MG, Carl E, Ramasamy DP, Qu J, Ramanathan M. Interdependence and contributions of sun exposure and vitamin D to MRI measures in multiple sclerosis. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2013 Oct;84(10):1075-81.
Benegits of sun exposure by Marc Sorenson, EdD…
For those who follow my writings, it should now be obvious that the risk of melanoma is decreased by regular sun exposure, and that the evidence for the health benefits of safe sun becomes clearer by the day. I opine that millions of lives could be saved yearly by regular, non-burning sun exposure for the entire population.
Another benefit of moderate sun exposure, or other ultraviolet radiation (UVR), is that it does not cause sufficient DNA damage to prevent efficient repair. A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology reviewed the impact of repeated low level sunlight exposures on vitamin D status and DNA damage/repair in light and brown skinned individuals. The UVR doses were equivalent to 13-17 minutes of midday exposure in the UK. The study reported that no evidence existed for these low-level exposures leading to accumulated DNA-damage, indicating that any damage was quickly repaired. The research also showed that the exposures led to sufficient vitamin D levels in the participants. In addition, it has been shown that “Regular exposure to UV leads to an almost complete disappearance of DNA damage in the basal and suprabasal layers of the epidermis, where the initiating of skin cancer occurs. It is no wonder that regular sun exposure is associated with less melanoma! Soak up some moderate, non-burning sun!
 Felton SJ, Cooke MS, Kift R, Berry JL, Webb AR, Lam PMW, de Gruijl FR, Vail A, and Rhodes LE. Concurrent beneficial (vitamin D production) and hazardous (cutaneous DNA damage) impact of repeated low-level summer sunlight exposures. Br J Dermatol. 2016 Jul 14. doi: 10.1111/bjd.14863. [Epub ahead of print]
 van der Rhee H, de Vries E, Coomans C, van de Velde P, Jan Willem Coebergh JW. Sunlight: For Better or For Worse? A Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Sun Exposure. Cancer Research Frontiers. 2016 May; 2(2): 156-183.
The necessity of sun exposure for heart health, by Marc Sorenson, EdD…
Despite the fact that higher vitamin D levels are nearly always found to be related to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and associated diseases such as diabetes mellitus, randomized controlled trials have not found that vitamin D supplementation reduces risk of cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, vitamin D levels are likely a surrogate measurement for sun exposure, meaning that some other photoproduct such as nitric oxide (NO) may be responsible for the lowered risk of CVD. A pair of recent papers reported that leisure-time or recreational outdoor physical activity was significantly associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In a study in the U.S., both frequency and intensity of outdoor activities were associated with reduced risk, as was higher vitamin D level. When vitamin D levels were removed from the equation, an inverse association was still found between outdoor recreational activity and mortality. The authors stated the following: “The underlying mechanism for this association may not involve 25(OH)D hence, further studies are warranted to confirm and investigate the underlying mechanism.” I would suggest that nitric oxide was the protective photoproduct, produced by sun exposure, which lessened the risk of CVD with outdoor activity.
Similar findings have been found for hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart failure, stroke, and myocardial infarction (heart attack). In a study in Finland, older adults who had moderate leisure-time activity had 30-40% reduced mortality and cardiovascular disease rates than those with low activity levels, while those with high activity levels had 50% lower rates.
Two messages from this research: (1) Start living more of your life outdoors. (2) Be sure to obtain plenty of non-burning sun exposure during you outdoor activity. Your life may depend on it.
 Wang L, Song Y, Manson JE, Pilz S, März W, Michaëlsson K, Lundqvist A, Jassal SK, Barrett-Connor E, Zhang C, Eaton CB, May HT, Anderson JL, Sesso HD. Circulating 25-hydroxy-vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2012 Nov 1;5(6):819-29.
 Song Y, Wang L, Pittas AG, Del Gobbo LC, Zhang C, Manson JE, Hu FB. Blood 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels and incident type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Diabetes Care. 2013 May;36(5):1422-8.
 Veloudi P, Jones G, Sharman JE. Effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation for cardiovascular health outcomes. Pulse 2016;4:193-207 https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/452742
 Donneyong MM, Taylor KC, Kerber RA, Hornung CA, Scragg R. Is outdoor recreational activity an independent predictor of cardiovascular disease mortality – NHANES III? Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2016 Aug;26(8):735-42.
 Barengo NC, Antikainen R, Borodulin K, Harald K, Jousilahti P. Leisure-Time Physical Activity Reduces Total and Cardiovascular Mortality and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence in Older Adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2016 Dec 26. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14694. [Epub ahead of print]
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, for sun exposure…
A new research paper on sun exposure and cancer has some interesting observations and some errors. 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.
By Marc Sorenson, EdD. For sun exposure…
Can sun exposure reduce rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?
RA is a terrible, crippling disease, which causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, and certain organs in the body. Like most diseases, it is one to be avoided and prevented when possible, and sun exposure may indeed help. At our former health resort in Southern Utah, we observed that many people were able to reduce the swelling and inflammation of this disease through adherence to a mostly plant-based nutrition program, or so we thought. Sun exposure in our very sunlit climate may have also played a critically-important part. One of our attendees was a former writer and piano player whose fingers had lost their ability to use the keyboards on either the computer or the piano. In less than two weeks she had gained sufficient range of motion in her hands to resume her two important activities. In addition, the swelling of her knuckles was profoundly reduced. And whereas the nutrition we used was doubtlessly responsible for much of her success, sun exposure was likely responsible for the remainder.
One paper demonstrated that at high latitudes, where sun exposure is considerably less available, the rate of RA is much higher than at lower latitudes. RA is also more severe in winter, a time of less sun exposure. In another report from researchers in Ireland (a northern country with little sun exposure due to overcast conditions), it was shown that 70% of patients had low vitamin D levels and that 26% were severely deficient. And in an investigation using data from the nurses health study, those women who were in the highest versus the lowest category of UVB (ultraviolet light exposure from sun or other sources), had a 21% decreased RA risk.
RA is an autoimmune rheumatic disease (ARD), and seasonal vitamin D declines may trigger flares in (ARD). Such declines, of course, are a result of decreasing sun exposure in the colder seasons.
Arthritic joints carry another devastating side effect. Hip replacement surgery is often prescribed for arthritic conditions, and those people who go through total-hip-replacement procedures are 4.7 times as likely to have an ischemic stroke, and 4.4 times as likely to have a hemorrhagic stroke in the first two weeks post surgery. Those stroke risks remain elevated for 6-12 weeks.
Eat correctly and safely soak up the sun. It’s a better option than hip replacement and potential stroke!
 Medicinenet.com. Definition of rheumatoid arthritis. http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5354.
Vieira VM, Hart JE, Webster TF, Weinberg J, Puett R, Laden F, CostenbaderKH, Karlson EW. Association between Residences in U.S. Northern Latitudes and Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Spatial Analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Mar 25. [Epub ahead of print]
Cutolo M, Otsa K, Uprus M, Paolino S, Seriolo B. Vitamin D in rheumatoid arthritis. Autoimmun Rev 2007;7:59-64
Haroon, M. Report to European Union League Against Rheumatism, June 13, 2008.
Arkema EV, Hart JE, Bertrand KA, Laden F, Grodstein F, Rosner BA, Karlson EW, CostenbaderKH. Exposure to ultraviolet-B and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis among women in the Nurses’ Health Study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2013 Apr;72(4):506-11
CutoloM1, Paolino S, Sulli A, Smith V, Pizzorni C, Seriolo B. Vitamin D, steroid hormones, and autoimmunity. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014 May;1317:39-46.
Lalmohamed A, Vestergaard P, Cooper C, de Boer A, Leufkens HG, van StaaTP, de Vries F. Hip replacement surgery and stroke. Stroke 2012;43(12):3225-9.
Sun and cognitive ability by Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…
If you have depression, you may also have cognitive impairment, according to older research that I just became aware of. The researchers measured cognitive abilities among approximately 14,000 depressed subjects and then exposed them to either one day of sunlight or two weeks of sunlight. They then determined if cognitive disabilities were associated with the sun they obtained.
The results were impressive: Those who were sun-deprived for two weeks had 2.5 times the risk of being cognitively impaired, compared to those who had sufficient sunlight. A one-day exposure made no significant difference in cognition.
Results of other research, based on a 15-year residential history of varying degrees of sun exposure, has also shown that cognitive impairment in persons who were below the median exposure to sun, was 88% greater than those who were above the median. The researchers mentioned vitamin D as a possible mechanism by which sun positively influenced cognition, but they also remarked that regulation of the circadian rhythm by sunlight could be a factor.
Several other studies showed a close, positive association between vitamin D levels and cognition, and as we know, vitamin D levels in most cases are a surrogate measurement for sun exposure.
The message is to get plenty of sunlight to improve mental clarity. Happy thinking!
 Shia T Kent, Leslie A McClure, William L Crosson, Donna K Arnett, Virginia G Wadley and Nalini Sathiakumar. Effect of sunlight exposure on cognitive function among depressed and non-depressed participants: a REGARDS cross-sectional study. Environmental Health 2009, 8:34
 Kent ST, Kabagambe EK, Wadley VG, Howard VJ, Crosson WL, Al-Hamdan MZ, Judd SE, Peace F, McClure LA. The relationship between long-term sun radiation and cognitive decline in the REGARDS cohort study. Int J Biometeorol. 2014 Apr;58(3):361-70.