People living in the northern (sunniest) area of Australia, have a much smaller risk of allergies and eczema than those living in the southern area. Greater vitamin D levels due to sunlight exposure may be one of the major reasons. Safe sunlight exposure is absolutely essential to your health!
The evidence mounts that high levels of sunlight exposure may predict a 52% reduction in the risk of Crohn’s disease and a 38% reduction in the risk of ulcerative colitis. So why does much of the medical community still recommend that we avoid sunlight exposure?
This article from a Canadian newspaper does an excellent job making the case that midday sunlight exposue is best for good health, and that sunlight prevents cancer. Truth does ultimately win the day!
The following article is well-written and provides a history of sunlight as it relates to the discovery of vitamin D. The author indicates that vitamin D fortification had made rickets a thing of the past, but with that point I disagree. Rickets is making a comeback due to the sunlight phobia promoted by dermatologists. Nevertheless, the article is well-worth reading.
July 25, 2011
Not only is having a green thumb a great way to stay healthier and happier, but new research shows it can actually protect you from cancer.
Noted cancer treatment and research center M.D. Anderson, at the University of Texas, found in a study that time spent gardening once or twice a week can reduce the risk of cancer by 50 percent in lifelong nonsmokers. Moreover, researchers found, the same level of gardening activity by former smokers can reduce cancer risk by as much as 40 percent.
And while researchers said they weren’t exactly sure if gardening reduced the incidence of cancer more than other physical activities, they did find that it was the most commonly shared trait among the study’s participants.
The cancer-prevention benefits of gardening are also echoed by the American Institute of Cancer Research, which said that gardening is a physical activity that not only helps prevent cancer but also contributes to overall health and endurance.
People who garden tend to eat better food – food that is untainted by chemicals and poisons and food that is much tastier than what you’re used to buying in a supermarket.
Along those lines, gardening means exposure to the sun and its known vitamin D-supplying qualities that have been linked to the prevention of some cancers and a wide variety of other illnesses and diseases.
In fact, along the lines of exposure to the sun, scientists now believe that exposure can actually help prevent skin cancer because sunlight exposure helps in the body’s manufacture of vitamin D, a cancer-stunting agent in its own right.
“Melanoma (skin cancer) patients tend to avoid the sun as sunburn is known to increase the risk of melanoma. We use sunshine to make vitamin D in the skin, so melanoma patients’ levels of vitamin D may be especially low,” said Prof. Julia Newton Bishop of the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine, and lead author of a recent study which found that higher levels of vitamin D were linked with better skin cancer survival odds.
Another reason why gardening may contain some anti-cancer, better health qualities, is because contact with soil, and the nutrients it supplies our garden-grown fruits and vegetables, tends to be good for us as well.
Finally, home-grown vegetables also contain anti-cancer nutrients and flavonols that can decrease certain cancers, like pancreatic cancer.
You may have thought you didn’t have a thumb that was green enough to be able to grow your own food, but based on continuing research that verifies the healthy, cancer-busting qualities of such a wonderful, self-fulfilling activity, doesn’t learning how sound like a fantastic opportunity to stay healthy?
By Bob Berman–
Vitamin D, produced when skin is exposed to light, is essential for our bodies. Unfortunately, modern lifestyles have minimized our time we spend under the sun. The Sun’s Heartbeat explains why a tan isn’t as bad as previously thought.
The first scenes in one Sun-tragedy unfolded long before there were written records of any kind. Spurred by events we can only guess at, a human exodus began 50,000 to 70,000 years ago, when our ancestors migrated away from the tropics and the equatorial region’s strong sunlight. Immediately, people developed vitamin D deficiencies.
Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is struck by the Sun’s ultraviolet rays. Because UV intensity declines dramatically with lower Sun angles, people in temperate regions, and especially those in even higher latitudes, receive as little as 10 percent of the UV experienced by those near the equator. As our ancestors migrating north developed vitamin D deficiencies, the results were swift and brutal. They were removed from the breeding pool by a cruel Darwinian process: the fetus inside a woman with rickets (a disease resulting from low vitamin D) is unable to emerge from her body, and both die in childbirth.
Within just a few thousand years, natural selection had turned some people’s skin white, and they were now able to manufacture ample vitamin D even from the reduced Sun intensity of the higher latitudes. (Dark skin color, called melanin, is a sunblock, needed because naked bodies near the equator can suffer from too much ultraviolet exposure.) In North America and northern Europe, the climate is sufficiently warm that their skin was almost fully exposed for more than half the year, and their bodies stored vitamin D in the muscle and fat. A new balance had been restored.
But starting a century ago, everything changed. First, the United States and Europe went from a mostly outdoors agrarian society to a mostly indoors manufacturing one. Then people started driving around in vehicles surrounded by windows. Glass prevents any vitamin D production because it blocks the Sun’s UV. When air-conditioning became widely available starting in the late 1950s and then got cheaper in the 1970s, people stopped keeping their windows open. Fixed- pane units became increasingly popular. The only sunlight that reached us in our homes and workplaces came through UV-stopping glass.
The last straw was sunblock. It did not even exist until thirty years ago. The initial UV- reducing creams, which cut exposure only in half, were marketed in the 1950s to promote tanning, not totally screen out ultraviolet rays. Then, in the 1980s, a new product came on the market: sunblock. With SPF (sun protection factor) numbers such as 30 and 45, sunblock essentially stops the body’s vitamin D production cold. At the same time, people were advised to cover themselves with these lotions throughout the summer months. Even the medical establishment urged hiding from the Sun as a way to counter skin cancer.
The metamorphosis was complete: we had become like the Morlocks in H. G. Wells’s book The Time Machine, shielded almost totally from sunlight’s UV.
Enter modern vitamin D researchers such as John Cannell, MD, executive director of the Vitamin D Council, a nonprofit educational corporation that believes that “many humans are needlessly suffering and dying from Vitamin D Deficiency.” Cannell is no ordinary medical doctor. He’s no ordinary researcher either. He is a proselytizer, the first in the theater to shout “Fire!” when the smoke appears, while there’s still time to get out. And these days, he’s very, very passionate. He believes that human beings have unwittingly transformed themselves into something uniquely and self- destructively unnatural.
“We are the first society of cave people,” he lamented to me in 2010. “In the development process of creating the skin, nature never dreamed that we’d deliberately avoid the Sun so thoroughly.”
What Cannell and a growing legion of researchers are decrying are the past three decades of newspaper and TV scare stories that have made the public afraid of the Sun. The consequence, they believe, is that our blood’s natural vitamin D levels are just a tiny fraction of what nature intended. And this is producing an avalanche of horrible consequences that include vastly increased rates of cancer.
That vitamin D is super-important is no longer in doubt. It has become the new needed supplement, recommended increasingly by family doctors and the popular media alike. The March 2010 Reader’s Digest calls vitamins in general “a scam” and urges people to take no daily supplements whatsoever – with the single exception of 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3, the form most recommended as a supplement.
This sudden interest has been sparked by a spate of studies strongly indicating that vitamin D is the most powerful anticancer agent ever known. Robert Heaney, MD, of Creighton University, a vitamin D researcher, points to thirty- two randomized trials, the majority of which were strongly positive. For example, in a big study of women whose average age was sixty-two, subjects who were given a large daily vitamin D supplement enjoyed a whopping 60 percent reduction in all kinds of cancers after just four years of treatment compared to a control group.
The skeptical might well wonder how, when cancer typically takes decades to develop, such a huge drop can be detected after just a few years. Heaney believes it’s because vitamin D prevents tiny predetectable tumors from growing or spreading. “That’s the kind of cancer I’d want to have – one that never grows,” he told me in June 2010.
The Canadian Cancer Society raised its vitamin D intake recommendations to 1,000 IU daily in 2009. But Cannell, Heaney, and others think that even this is still way too low.
“I went to a conference and asked all the researchers what they themselves take daily and give to their families,” Heaney said. “The average was 5,500 IU daily. There is certainly no danger in doing this, since toxicity cannot arise in under 30,000 IU a day.”
Why is this vitamin D craze happening now? It sounds suspiciously familiar – like the antioxidant craze of the 1990s, when everyone was gobbling vitamin E to guard against “free radicals.” Or the Linus Pauling– led vitamin C frenzy of the 1970s. Recent studies have shown that all those vitamins have no effect on mortality whatsoever. Indeed, a multivitamin a day now seems to be no better for your health than gobbling a daily Hostess Twinkie. Perhaps our bodies were not designed to get flooded with vitamins. Or maybe the couple of dozen known minerals and vitamins are only the tip of the health iceberg, and what’s important are hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of trace substances of which we are not yet even aware.
Yet it is here, in a discussion of the natural environment in which our bodies were fashioned, that vitamin D makes so much sense. After all, our bodies create it naturally out of the Sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Spending just ten minutes in strong sunlight – the kind you get from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM between April and August – will allow your body to make as much vitamin D as you would get from drinking two hundred glasses of milk. This is astonishing. Asks John Cannell rhetorically, “Why does nature do this so quickly? Nature normally doesn’t do this kind of thing.”
The implied answer, of course, is that we were designed to have a high and steady level of this vitamin in our bodies. Yet as more and more people are tested, researchers are finding serious vitamin D deficiencies in virtually all of the population of the United States, Canada, and northern Europe. The reason? According to Cannell and the other doctors on the Vitamin D Council, we have been hiding from the Sun for decades.
The results may be even worse than we realize. Many researchers now fear that the explosive increase in autism is a result of pregnant mothers having close to no vitamin D in their bodies and then young babies and infants being similarly shielded from the Sun. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that virtually no infants are getting enough vitamin D. The inadequacy figures, even using the CDC’s pre-2011 lower recommendations of what they thought the body should have, was that 90 percent of infants are deficient.
According to Cannell, the highest autism rates occur in areas that have the most clouds and rain, and hence the lowest blood levels of vitamin D. A Swedish study has strongly linked sunlight deprivation with autism. Moreover, blacks, whose vitamin D levels are half those found in whites living at the same latitudes, have twice the autism rates. Conversely, autism is virtually unknown in places such as sunny Somalia, where most people still spend most of their time outdoors. Yet another piece of anecdotal evidence is that autism is one of the very few afflictions that occur at higher rates among the wealthier and more educated – exactly the people most likely to be diligent about sunscreen and more inclined to keep their children indoors.
As we saw in assessing links between earthly events and sunspot fluctuations, it’s perilous to assign connections too quickly, and autism in particular is a can of worms. Nonetheless, these early threads should set off alarms: it might be wise for pregnant women and mothers of small children to immediately start exposing themselves and their kids to more sunlight.
When Cannell was in medical school in 1973, he was taught that human breast milk contains little or no vitamin D. “This didn’t make sense,” he said during a phone conversation with me in 2011. “Why would nature ever deprive a nursing infant of this vital substance?” Then it came to him: “When pregnant women start taking 5,000 international units of vitamin D daily, their milk soon contains enough vitamin D for a breast-feeding baby. So there’s the key to how much a woman should naturally be getting every day.”
In contrast to all this, and to the great annoyance of physicians and researchers on the Vitamin D Council, the FDA continued to advise only 400 IU of D3 daily as of early 2011. The agency officially regards most vitamin D studies as “incomplete” or “contradictory” and clearly has taken a cautious, go-slow approach.
In November 2010, the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine issued its first new recommendations about the vitamin since 1997, and many people were disappointed. The institute did boost its recommended daily amounts to 400 IU for infants, 600 IU for most adults, and 800 IU for those over age seventy. It also said there was no harm in taking up to 10,000 IU daily, although it conservatively adopted 4,000 IU as the official recommended upper limit.
According to Cannell, the new recommendations are still “irrelevant dosages.” Michael Holick, MD, of Boston University, another vitamin researcher, agreed, saying that he personally takes 3,000 IU daily.
Cannell told me that the National Academy of Sciences report was a “scandal” and that four physicians had disgustedly resigned from the committee that put out the paper. “Commonsense aspects are totally lacking,” he said. “For example, they urge infants to get 400 IU daily, but adults just 600 IU. Yet this vitamin is distributed in muscle and fat. The more you weigh, the more you should be getting. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Listen,” he added, “everyone knows that there is an explosion of childhood cases of autism, asthma, and autoimmune disease. It all began when we took our children out of the Sun. Starting twenty-five years ago, a perfect storm of three events has changed how much sunlight children get. First came the scare of childhood sexual predators in the early eighties, then the fear of skin cancer, and finally the Nintendo and video game craze. Nowadays, kids do not play outdoors. Playgrounds are empty. You’re a bad mother if you let your child run around. And it’s almost a social services offense if your kid gets a sunburn. Never before have children’s brains had to develop in the absence of vitamin D.”
Since this is not a medical book, I can only pass on the recommendations of those in the forefront of vitamin D research. Their best advice is to go in the Sun regularly without burning. Wear as little clothing as you can. You know how much Sun you can han-dle without turning red. Unless you have a very light complexion and blond or red hair, you should be able to expose yourself safely to ten to twenty minutes of strong sunlight at a time. Lie out in the Sun in shorts for five to ten minutes on each side. The key to UV intensity is Sun height. If your shadow is shorter than you are, your body will produce a good amount of vitamin D.
After experiencing twenty minutes of unprotected midday Sun from May to July, or a full hour or more during March, early April, and late August through October, you can certainly use sunblock. The experts say to buy the kind whose active ingredient is either zinc or titanium oxide. Most other kinds will be absorbed by the skin, then enter the bloodstream and circulate. “You might as well drink the stuff,” Cannell says disdainfully.
During the low-Sun winter months, you need to spend much more time sunbathing and probably take a vitamin D supplement. The experts are currently urging 2,000 to 3,000 IU daily.
Why not skip the Sun altogether and just pop the pills year- round? Some doctors, including those responsible for the 2010 National Academy of Sciences report, suggest doing exactly that. They figure that you can have it all – nice, high vitamin D serum levels plus no UV exposure, with its skin cancer risk. But others believe that’s a bad idea. “Some of my colleagues think D3 supplements are enough,” Cannell says. “But that supposes we know everything. I suspect that we do not know everything. Natural sunlight has to be the preferred route whenever possible.”
Everyone should use solar power wisely and not go totally bonkers. There’s no need to fry. But whatever extra skin cancer risk we might assume certainly seems to me to be a reasonable price to pay, considering the benefits. It now appears that adequate sunlight- mediated vitamin D might prevent as many as 150,000 cancer deaths a year in the United States alone and also reduce infections, bone problems, and perhaps, though more science is needed, even autism and asthma rates. Of course, on the other side of the balance beam, melanoma causes 8,500 US deaths a year. Every activity from bicycle riding to barroom brawling involves some balancing of risks, and the decision of what trade- offs to make is, of course, yours alone.
Tomorrow is a new day. As the Sun rises, its orange beams will cast magical rays in the morning mist. Is the Sun our enemy or our friend? Will it take our life or save it?
By: Marc Sorenson–
A 2010 study from France has shown that women who were exposed to a combination of sunlight and dietary vitamin D had up to a 45 percent reduced risk of contracting breast cancer, according to Cancer Epidemiol, Biomarkers & Prevention.
The researchers noted that high dietary vitamin D by itself did not correlate to a reduced risk of breast cancer, whereas sunlight exposure alone did correlate to a lowered risk.
This research should come as no surprise, as there is miniscule vitamin D in the typical diet. For example, the typical 3½-ounce piece of farmed salmon contains about 175 International Units of vitamin D; 8 ounces of fortified milk 100 IU; and 8 ounces fortified orange juice 100 IU. The amounts typically derived from eggs, oils and margarine is negligible.
It is now believed by many experts in the vitamin D field that 4,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D supplementation is necessary for optimal health, so it can be seen that trying to optimize breast health with the paltry 400-500 IU from diet is like trying to color the ocean with a cup of tomato paste.
Conversely, 20 minutes of full-body exposure to summer sunlight at noon can produce as much as 20,000 IU, according to a 2005 Journal of Nutrition article, showing that sunlight correlates far better to lowered breast cancer risk than does dietary vitamin D.
However, most people are not actively seeking the sunlight and are not even close to producing 20,000 IU. In the French breast cancer study, it was probably the combination of both sunlight-produced vitamin D and dietary vitamin D that sufficiently increased blood levels to a threshold that triggered vitamin D’s cancer protection mechanisms, which are numerous.
Other research including a 2007 study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has shown that when vitamin D supplementation is more than 1,100 IU daily, there is a profound correlation to a lowered risk — from 60-77 percent — of all cancers in women.
As to sunlight, Dr. Esther John and colleagues conducted research on the sun-exposure habits of women and correlated those habits to the risk of developing breast cancer. Those women who had the greatest exposure to sunlight were 65 percent less likely to develop breast cancer.
Should we then shun the sunlight? This newest study is another in a long series of vitamin D/cancer research that has shown a striking lowering of breast cancer incidence with higher sunlight exposure and greater vitamin D levels in the blood. The sunlight is one of St. George’s greatest assets and should be embraced, not shunned.
After the Institute of Medicine made their inanely low recommendations for vitamin D supplementation — 600 IU daily for all ages — it is good to see that research belying that foolishness continues to surface.
Sunlight exposure is the most natural way to produce vitamin D and if supplements are going to be used when sunlight is not available, a minimum of 2,000-4000 IU daily is necessary to optimize blood levels for best health. Check with your physician before making changes in sunlight exposure or vitamin D intake.
Marc Sorenson is a resident of St. George. He and his wife, Vicki, founded National Institute of Fitness, in Ivins. They helped thousands of people from all over the world with fitness, weight issues and degenerative diseases. Marc Sorenson received his doctorate from Brigham Young University. He is an author, speaker and founder of the Sunlight Institute, as well as executive director of the Vitamin D Health Initiative.
Log onto vitaminddoc.com or e-mail email@example.com for more information.
By: Nerich V, Jantchou P, Boutron-Ruault MC, Monnet E, Weill A, Vanbockstael V, Auleley GR, Balaire C, Dubost P, Rican S, Allemand H, Carbonnel F
Low sunshine exposure might contribute to the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). To assess the geographic distribution of IBD incidence in relation to sunshine exposure in France to test the hypothesis that higher sun exposure is associated with lower IBD risk.
Using the national health insurance database, incidence rates of Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) were estimated for each of the 94 French administrative areas (‘départements’), between 2000 and 2002. The surface UV radiation intensity was obtained by combining modelling and satellite data from Meteosat, the European meteorological satellite.
Relationships between incidence rates and sun exposure were tested for significance by using a Poisson regression. We mapped smoothed relative risks (sRR) for CD and UC, using a Bayesian approach and adjusting for sun exposure, to search for geographical variations.
Areas with a smoothed RR of CD incidence significantly above 1 corresponded to areas with low sunshine exposure, whereas those with high or medium sunlight exposure had smoothed RRs either lower than 1 or not significantly different from 1. There was no association between sun exposure and UC incidence.
This geographic study suggests that low sunlight exposure is associated with an increased incidence of Crohn’s disease. Further studies are needed to determine if this association is causal.
Increased sun exposure and higher vitamin D levels may help to protect against the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, a new Australian study suggests.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease whose symptoms include loss of balance, slurred speech, muscle spasms, and difficulty walking or moving the legs or arms. Focused on residents living in Australia, the study also echoed prior findings that this disease of the brain and spinal cord strikes with greater frequency among people who live in less sunny regions farther from the equator.
Study co-author Anne-Louise Ponsonby, a professor, epidemiologist and public health physician with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute at Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, stressed that the exact mechanism by which sun exposure and vitamin D may help protect against a “multi-factorial disease” is not yet clear.
But vitamin D is an important agent that helps modify immune system functioning, she noted, “and laboratory studies have shown higher vitamin D levels can dampen down some of the adverse immune overactivity that occurs in autoimmune diseases such as MS.”
Ponsonby and her colleagues conducted their research with the support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of the United States of America, the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the ANZ William Buckland Foundation, and Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia. Their observations are published in the Feb. 8 issue of the journal Neurology.
Exposure to the sun results in increased vitamin D levels, since the body makes vitamin D when it is exposed to the ultraviolet B rays in sunlight.
Although past research (some conducted by the same research team) has uncovered a similar association between sun exposure and MS risk protection, the authors noted that the current finding is the first to examine the impact of sun exposure among individuals who are just experiencing precursor signs of MS, but have not yet actually been diagnosed as having the disease.
This approach, the investigators noted, ensured that the new analysis is focused solely on pre-disease sun exposure patterns, rather than sun exposure routines that might be altered after a diagnosis. (Sunlight exposure has not been shown to benefit MS patients after diagnosis.)
Between 2003 and 2006, the research team looked at 216 patients between the ages of 18 and 59 who had early pre-diagnosis signs of MS. The patients were located in one of four different locations in Australia, with latitudes ranging from 27 degrees South to 43 degrees South.
Almost 400 other study participants without any disease indications were also included in the study for comparative purposes.
All were asked to report how much time they had spent in the sun over weekends and holidays during both summer and wintertime over the course of four different time-frames: between the ages of 6 and 10; 11 and 15; 16 and 20; and during the three years leading up to the study. In addition, skin exams were conducted, and blood samples taken to measure vitamin D levels.
The result: the higher the amount of both past and recent sun exposure (as well as specifically leisure-time exposure), the lower the risk for developing early signs of MS.
Specifically noting that sun exposure ranged from 500 to 6000 kiloujules per meter squared, the authors found that for every additional 1000 kilojoules of exposure, the risk of developing the first signs of MS dropped by 30 percent.
In addition, having a higher vitamin D level was also independently linked to a lower risk for developing MS.
What’s more, those living in the study regions furthest away from the equator faced a 32 percent greater risk for signs of MS than study participants who lived closest to the equator.
And lastly, those with the most signs of skin damage faced a 60 percent lower risk for developing initial indications of MS compared with those with the least amount of skin damage caused by the sun.
While advising that sun exposure “should not be discouraged,” Ponsonby strongly cautioned against the sort of “excessive exposure” that can give rise to a number of adverse health consequences, including possible skin cancer.
Dr. Moses Rodriguez, a professor of neurology and immunology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., agrees that “it’s all about not overdoing it”.
“Dermatologists can get up in arms with these sorts of studies because they’re saying that the amount of sun exposure that you would need to get protection against something like MS would be the amount that would increase your risk for melanoma and skin cancer dramatically,” Rodriguez said.
“But in truth, it appears that your mother’s idea to go out and play in the sun was not necessarily a bad idea,” Rodriguez added. “It’s just that everything has to be tempered. You don’t, for example, want someone to go take 10,000 units of vitamin D. Yes, you need some sun exposure, and you need some vitamin D. Both appear to have some protective effect in terms of MS. But neither is the whole answer, and neither is going to cure MS.”
Nicholas G. LaRocca, vice president of health care delivery and policy research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in New York City, praised the study for advancing scientific knowledge about MS.
“I do think this is a very important study,” he said. “It really moves this field forward in terms of refining our understanding of what puts people at risk for developing MS, and what might reduce this risk.”
But like Rodriguez, he also cautioned against “over-interpreting the implications of the current findings.”
“Reading this [study], one might be tempted to say ‘well, I should move to a sunnier climate’ or ‘I should dose myself with tons and tons of vitamin D,'” LaRocca said. “But I don’t think we know enough to really understand what the full and most appropriate implications are. There are many contributions to MS risk, so we will need a lot more research before it becomes clear what’s really going on.”