Tag Archives: vitamin d

Sun Exposure reduces Obesity; Vitamin D does not.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Athletic performance and sun exposure.

Athletic Performance and sun exposure.

Almost no one realizes the dramatic improvement that sun exposure can make on athletic performance. Years ago I helped Dr. John Cannell obtain translations of many esoteric and decades-old studies that had been forgotten, probably due to the fact that sun lamps were used to create some of the improvements in athletics, and have fallen out of favor due to the sunscare movement. I co-authored a paper with Cannell, called Athletic Performance and Vitamin D.[1] That paper is the source of much of the material covered here, and it demonstrates the remarkable, positive effect of sun or other ultraviolet (UV) exposure on human performance. I would also strongly suggest that the readers avail themselves of Dr. Cannell’s book on the subject, called The Athlete’s Edge, which discusses in far greater detail the materials introduced here.

One of the salient studies on UV exposure took place in 1957 and assessed the influence of sun exposure on strength and performance over a two-year period.[2] During that time six subjects were able to increase athletic performance and muscle trainability through systematic UV exposure. But when vitamin D3 was used, it not only did not work, it inhibited the performance-enhancing effect of the UV. I sometimes fear the public is beginning to believe that if sun exposure is proven to enhance human health, one needs only to take a vitamin D pill. Don’t get pulled into that idea. Sun exposure will always be more important than any of the photoproducts whose production it stimulates.

Here are some of the other salient studies on sun exposure and performance. In 1938, Russian researchers demonstrated that a series of four UV treatments improved speed in the 100-meter dash compared to four non-irradiated students, when both groups were undergoing daily physical training.[3] The times improved from 13.51 seconds to 13.28 seconds in the non-irradiated group and from 13.63 to 12.62 seconds in the irradiated group. In other words, the UV-treated group improved by three-fourths of a second more than the non-UV group. That may seem like a relatively small improvement, but three-fourths of a second better time in a 100-meter dash could be the difference between first and last place!

German research from 1944 showed that the exposure of 32 medical students to UV, twice weekly during for six weeks, associated with a 13% improvement in endurance, whereas performance of a control group was unchanged.[4]

Other German research shows that the ability of a muscle to gain strength (trainability) is much better in summer than winter, and peaks in September.[5] In fact, the trainability in September was 2½ times higher than the average monthly trainability for the entire year.

So you who love athletics, don’t avoid the sun. It may make you a winner. But don’t burn.

Reaction time has also been shown to improve significantly in the sunnier months.[6] [7]

When we consider reaction time, muscle and bone strength, speed and endurance, we should realize that these measurements are not only important for athletes; they are important for all aspects of living for all people. Everyone wants to be stronger, quicker, and faster, as well as have more endurance in daily activities. So embrace the sun, but do it safely and don’t burn.

 

[1] Cannell JJ, Hollis BW, Sorenson MB, Taft TN, Anderson JJ. Athletic performance and vitamin D. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 May;41(5):1102-10.

[2] E. Seidl and Th. Hettinger. The Effect of Vitamin D3 on the Strength and Performance of a Healthy Adult. International Journal Physiology, including Industrial Physiology, Vol. 16, Pages 365-372 (1957).

[3] Gorkin Z, Gorkin MJ, Teslenko NE. [The effect of ultraviolet irradiation upon training for 100m sprint.] Fiziol Zh USSR. 1938;25:695-701.

[4] Lehmann G, Mueller EA. [Ultraviolet irradiation and altitude fitness.] Luftfahrtmedizin. 1944;9:37-43. [Article in German].

[5] Hettinger T, Muller EA.  Seasonal course of trainability of musculature.  Int Z Angew Physiol. 1956;16(2):90-4.

[6] Sigmund, R. The effect of ultra-violet rays on the human reaction time.  Strahlentherapie. 1956;101(4):623-9.

[7] Seidl E. [The effect of ultraviolet irradiation on reaction time.] Int Z Angew Physiol. 1958;17(4):333-40.

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

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

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

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

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

So soak up your sunlight but don’t burn.

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

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More Research shows that Sun Exposure thwarts Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight institute… sun exposure

 

If only those who suffer from MS had known the truth when they were younger! Getting plenty of sun exposure might have saved them from the ravages of this horrible disease. Much has been written about the influence of vitamin D on MS, and in this blog, I have pointed out that sun exposure may be more important than vitamin D. A new study conducted in Australia, and presented at the 32nd Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and in MS in Research in London, England, is interesting in the way it was conducted.[1]

By questionnaire, the researchers used past and present sun exposure as a surrogate for vitamin D levels and concluded that historical, but not current, vitamin D levels protect against MS.

This was an erroneous procedure to measure the influence of vitamin D levels on MS. It has already been established that sun exposure per se may be the operative habit that protects against MS. And in my opinion, vitamin D levels may only be surrogates for sun exposure, not vice versa. And, sun exposure probably mitigates MS, independent of vitamin D.

One of the most compelling papers on sun and MS was produced by Dr. Robyn Lucas and colleagues.[2] Here are the salient points in their report called Ultraviolet radiation, vitamin D and multiple sclerosis:

  • There is strong evidence from observational studies that low past sun exposure is associated with an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • Lower sun exposure or lower vitamin D status have been linked to more severe MS, that is, more frequent relapses and more rapid progression to disability.
  • Vitamin D supplementation trials for people with MS have shown improvement in immunological and MRI parameters, but with little convincing evidence of clinical benefit.
  • Higher levels of sun exposure may have benefits for MS-related immune parameters through both vitamin D and non-vitamin D pathways.
  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may result in immune tolerance that is beneficial for MS through upregulation of T and B regulatory cells, enhanced levels of cis-urocanic acid, alterations in dendritic cell trafficking as well as release of a range of other cytokines and chemokines.

To elucidate the last paragraph it is necessary to understand the vocabulary used. T cells are an integral part of the immune system that help rid the body of invading microorganisms. The regulatory T cells (or suppressor T cells) are a subpopulation of T cells which modulate the immune system and help prevent the body from attacking itself.[3] MS is another autoimmune disease in which the body is attacked its own immune system, which in the case of MS, destroys the myelin sheath. The regulatory, or T suppressor cells suppress these attacks, thereby preventing, abrogating or ameliorating the disease. B regulatory cells are also a part of the immune system and can, through their suppressive functions decrease inflammation, possibly through the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.[4] Cis-urocanic acid is a chemical that is significantly lower in MS patients, and when stimulated by sun exposure, significantly reduces many indicators of MS.[5] [6] Dendritic cells are also messenger T cells that are essential in assisting sun exposure to decrease the immune response that effects autoimmune diseases.[7]

So let’s hear it for sun exposure as the very best therapy for MS. Be safe and don’t burn, and don’t use sunscreens, which can negate 99% of the sun’s vitamin D production.

[1] http://www.hcplive.com/conference-coverage/ectrims-2016/current-vitamin-d-doesnt-impact-ms-but-historical-exposure-does#sthash.ZF3nz3IN.dpuf

[2] Robyn M Lucas, Scott N Byrne, Jorge Correale, Susanne Ilschner & Prue H Hart. Ultraviolet radiation, vitamin D and multiple sclerosis. Neurodegener. Dis. Manag 2015 (epub ahead of print).

[3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_T_cell (accessed November 24, 2015.)

[4] Min Yang, Ke Rui, Shengjun Wang and Liwei Lu. Regulatory B cells in autoimmune diseases. Cellular & Molecular Immunology (2013) 10, 122–132. Cellular & Molecular Immunology (2013) 10, 122–132.

[5] Jorge Correale and Mauricio Farez.S60 Multiple Sclerosis: Biomarkers: Clinical Phenotype Immune System Modulation in Multiple Sclerosis as a Result of Sun exposure: Role of cis-Urocanic Acid. Neurology April 6, 2012.  (names s

[6] Correale J, Farez MF. Modulation of multiple sclerosis by sun exposure: role of cis-urocanic acid. J Neuroimmunol. 2013 Aug 15;261(1-2):134-40.

[7] Breuer J, Schwab N, Schneider-Hohendorf T, Marziniak M, Mohan H, Bhatia U, Gross CC, Clausen BE, Weishaupt C, Luger TA, Meuth SG, Loser K, Wiendl H. Ultraviolet B light attenuates the systemic immune response in central nervous system autoimmunity. Ann Neurol. 2014 May;75(5):739-58.

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Does Sun Exposure help to prevent Acne?

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute…

Acne is a plague among teenagers, and many who are older also suffer. Can sunlight and vitamin D play a role in preventing it?  Perhaps so. A new (August 25) study shows that vitamin D deficiency was detected in 48% of patients with acne, but in only 22.5% of healthy controls (no acne).[1] This would indicate that sun exposure has a prophylactic effect on acne. The level of vitamin D was also inversely associated with the severity of the disease, meaning that it was probably the mechanism, perhaps by strengthening the immune system, by which the disease was thwarted. Improvement in the inflammatory lesions caused by the acne was also noted with a vitamin D supplementation program.

This reminds me of a young man, with terrible acne, who attended our health institute in Sunny Southern Utah. Our area is blessed with about 300 days per year of sunlight. After three months, his acne disappeared. Sunlight is known to cure psoriasis, eczema and other skin diseases. Why not acne? Of course, our nutrition program may also have helped him.

One more reason to safely embrace the sun.

[1] Lim SK, Ha JM, Lee YH, Lee Y, Seo YJ, Kim CD, Lee JH, Im M. Comparison of Vitamin D Levels in Patients with and without Acne: A Case-Control Study Combined with a Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS One. 2016 Aug 25;11(8):e0161162.

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Chinese Research states that Elderly People need more Sun Exposure!

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute… Sun exposure.

New research from China suggests that sun exposure, through vitamin D production, contributes improvements in bone health, mood and cognitive functions. It also says that sun exposure, through the regulation of melatonin also helps to properly establish circadian rhythms, improve sleep quality, and optimizes physical and social activity in the elderly.[1] They might have also mentioned that cognitive decline is much more prevalent among nursing-home residents that do not participate in outdoor activity; those who have 20 or more outdoor activities per month have no decline whatsoever![2]

This is especially important for institutionalized elderly people who tend to spend time in their rooms and asleep in front of the TV. The researchers suggest that the elderly should perform outdoor activities for 20-30 minutes per day, five days per week. They also suggest that the outdoor environment be more accessible to the residents and that some of their programmed activities should be held outdoors.

This is excellent advice and really hits home with me, since my wife and I have a church calling in which we conduct meetings and otherwise take care of the spiritual needs of the residents at an assisted-care facility. We see the physical and mental deterioration that takes place among the people who seldom get outside. We are always suggesting to our charges, and to the people who run the facility, that they get regular sun exposure and eat correctly, both of which would make dramatic differences in their abilities to cope.

Did you know that the risk of being admitted to a nursing home can be predicted by vitamin D levels?  In one investigation, those whose serum vitamin D levels were in the deficient category had three-and-one-half times the risk of being admitted to a nursing home as those whose levels were in the highest category.[3] Of course, people with low vitamin D levels are suffering from sun-exposure deficiency. Let’s take care of our elderly by being sure that they enjoy plenty of safe sun exposure.

[1] Lin TC, Liao YC. The Impact of Sunlight Exposure on the Health of Older Adults. Hu Li Za Zhi. 2016 Aug;63(4):116-22.

[2] Suzuki T, Murase S. Influence of outdoor activity and indoor activity on cognition decline: use of an infrared sensor to measure activity. Telemed J E Health. 2010 Jul-Aug;16(6):686-90

[3]  Visser, M. et al.  Low serum vitamin concentrations of 25 hydroxyvitamin D in older persons and the risk of nursing home admission.  Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:616-22.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Cognitive Decline in the Elderly. Is it lack of Sun Exposure?

By Marc Sorenson, EdD.  Sunlight Institute…

Lack of Sun Exposure: Does it cause mental decline?  My wife and I conduct church meetings at an assisted-care center, also known as a rest home. In our almost two years at the facility, we note that many of the residents there have lost or are losing their cognitive abilities (abilities to think). It worries us that many of them do not get outdoors often, which probably contributes to both their physical and mental deterioration. It is likely that lack of sun exposure is a key factor, and research from Japan corroborates this view.[1] The researchers had previously reported that elderly individuals with cognitive impairment showed a low frequency of activity. This research assessed whether the type of activity (indoor of outdoor) had different effects on cognition.

The subjects were measured by a mental test known as the mini-mental state examination (MMSE), before being starting the study period. Then, for one year, their activities were measured by an infra-red sensor. At that time they were reevaluated and placed in one of two groups: (1) a cognitive decline group and (2) a normal group. Those whose cognition declined had very few outings away from the facility, compared to the normal group. Those who had 20 or more outings had no decline whatsoever.

The researchers summed up their findings thusly: “This study objectively evaluated the behavior of elderly individuals with infrared sensors and revealed that elderly people who have few occasions to go out tend to show a decrease in cognitive function.” The researchers should have mentioned that those who do not go out have no sun exposure.

It is also known that the risk of being admitted to a nursing home can be predicted by vitamin D levels.  In one investigation, those whose serum vitamin D levels were in the deficient category had three-and-one-half times the risk of being admitted to a nursing home as those whose levels were in the highest category.[2] Of course, people with low vitamin D levels are suffering from sun-exposure deficiency. Let’s take care of our elderly by being sure that they enjoy plenty of safe sun exposure.

Safely embracing the sun has so many positive benefits! Be sure your elderly parents and friends have sufficient sun exposure without burning.

[1] Suzuki T, Murase S. Influence of outdoor activity and indoor activity on cognition decline: use of an infrared sensor to measure activity. Telemed J E Health. 2010 Jul-Aug;16(6):686-90

[2] Visser, M. et al.  Low serum vitamin concentrations of 25 hydroxyvitamin D in older persons and the risk of nursing home admission.  Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:616-22.

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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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