Sunshine, Alzheimer’s Disease and non-Alzheimer’s Dementia

Sunshine, Alzheimer’s Disease and non-Alzheimer’s Dementia

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute…

One of the fears of aging is that memory will fade and full-fledged Alzheimer’s disease will develop. Amyloid plaques, consisting of tangles of amyloid protein (a complex protein resembling starch) in nervous tissue, are pathological markers of Alzheimer’s disease that are found in the spaces between the brain’s nerve cells.

Studies from both Europe and the US have established a link between low vitamin D and Alzheimer’s.[1] [2] [3]

As impressive as the correlation of low vitamin D and Alzheimer’s, it pales in comparison to the potential of sunlight to reduce the risk of non-Alzheimer’s dementia. A seven-year study showed that the risk of non-Alzheimer’s dementia was 19.7 times higher in people who had vitamin D levels less than 10 ng/ml (severely deficient) than those who had higher levels.[4]When people do not get enough sun, low levels of vitamin D are a result. The message here is that to keep your “marbles,” plenty of sun is a necessity.

Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), a marker for sun exposure, associates with reduced Alzheimer’s risk.

Whereas melanoma, the deadly skin cancer, is inversely associated with sun exposure (more sun exposure, less melanoma) the same is not true for NMSC, which is directly associated with sun exposure. It is a rarely fatal disease unless the immune system is compromised due to other diseases or anti-rejection drugs. It has been shown that NMSC associates to a lower risk of melanoma and many other cancers.

I am not suggesting that we contract NMSC in order to prevent melanoma. Correct nutritional habits can also reduce the risk of both NMSC and melanoma,[5] and it should be remembered that in the case that someone contracts an NMSC, it can be easily removed. Melanoma, however, can be deadly. The best bet is to eat wisely and obtain plenty of regular sun exposure so that risk of melanoma is dramatically decreased.

NMSC is often used as a marker for sun exposure and is compared with various diseases beyond cancer to determine if sun exposure associates to those diseases. Dr. Grant informed me of a paper showing that among people with NMSC, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is profoundly decreased;[6]in fact those with NMSC had a 79% reduced risk of AD. Or stated another way, those without MNSC had about five times the risk of AD. Of course, this demonstrates the value of sun in reducing AD.

All tissues in the body have vitamin D receptors, and the brain and central nervous system must have vitamin D to function properly. A little non-burning sun exposure at midday can produce vast quantities of vitamin D. If the memory is fading fast, it may be time to spend more time in the sun. Remember that sun exposure is the only natural way to obtain that vitally important hormone, vitamin D. After all, sun exposure can produce as much as 20,000 IU of vitamin D with whole-body exposure, and one has the added benefits of serotonin, endorphin and nitric oxide production.

[1]Soni M, Kos K, Lang IA, Jones K, Melzer D, Llewellyn DJ. Vitamin D and cognitive function. Scand J Clin Lab Invest Suppl. 2012;243:79-82.

[2] Grant WB. Does vitamin D reduce the risk of dementia? J Alzheimer’s Dis 2009;17(1):151-9.

[3]Pogge E, Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s disease: is there a link? Consult Pharm. 2010;25(7):440-50.

[4]Annweiler C, Rolland Y, Schott AM, Blain H, Vellas B, BeauchetO.Serum vitamin D deficiency as a predictor of incident non-Alzheimer dementias: a 7-year longitudinal study. Dement Geriatr CognDisord 2011;32(4):273-8.


[6] White RS, Lipton RB, Hall CB, Steinerman JR. Nonmelanoma skin cancer is associated with reduced Alzheimer disease risk. Neurology. 2013 May 21;80(21):1966-72.

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