By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute…
Canada has a long season each year in which vitamin D from sunlight is not available. Due to the northern latitude of Canada, May through October is the only period when vitamin D can be produced in response to sun exposure to the skin. Therefore, a new press release from the Vitamin D Society recommends to protect health by building up vitamin D during the summer. Vitamin D from the summer sun helps to prevent serious diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and others.
Dr. Reinhold Vieth, the scientific advisor for the Society, states the following: We often assume that the health benefits of sunshine are solely due to vitamin D, but that is not proven yet. In other words, it is likely that sunshine does more for our bodies than just produce vitamin D.”
Dr. Vieth is correct. Vitamin D is only one of several products of sun exposure. Others are nitric oxide, which helps prevent vascular problems, and serotonin and endorphins that enhance mood. It is likely that there are many more products of sun exposure that enhance human health.
The Society recommends 6 guidelines for safely enjoying the sun and its health benefits:
- Be moderate, and don’t burn.
- Sun exposure can produce vitamin D only during the mid-day hours, so be outside between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Know your skin type and risk of burning. Red hair and very light skin predict a greater risk of burning. (Also remember that dark skin needs more sun exposure to produce vitamin D).
- A gradual build-up of a tan protects the skin from burning.
- When the skin begins to redden, it is time to stop the sun exposure.
- Frequent but shorter sun exposure times are better for producing vitamin D.
Since about 35% of all Canadians do not meet suggested vitamin D requirements, sun exposure is essential to reverse that statistic.
So Canadians, safely enjoy the sun this summer!
To read the entire press release, go to this link: http://www.vitamindsociety.org/press_release.php?id=44
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. 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. 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.
 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.
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