Tag Archives: public health

Insufficient Sunlight destroys health. Part 1

Insufficient sunlight destroys health. By Marc Sorenson, EdD

Insufficient sunlight a public health problem

Insufficient sunlight is wreaking havoc on health and ruining the enjoyment sunlight provides. Yet, we choose to live in air-conditioned homes, play many of our sports in covered buildings and drive covered cars. In addition, advertisements persuade us that we must wear sunscreen anytime we venture outdoors. Some also suggest that we wear it at night. Thus, they think we can prevent “sun damage” that continues after daytime outdoor sun exposure.  It is obvious that the greater part of our population suffers sunlight deprivation. Or, as a recent scientific review called it, “insufficient sun exposure.”

The paper, Insufficient Sun Exposure Has Become a Real Public Health Problem, exposes the damage done due to sun deprivation.

First of all, the authors begin by stating that deaths due to insufficient sunlight are staggering. They amount to 340,000 yearly deaths in the U.S. and 480,000 in Europe. They then delineate the source of those deaths, first declaring a list of major maladies that spread illness and misery. The list includes breast and colorectal cancer, hypertension, CVD, metabolic syndrome, MS, Alzheimer’s, autism, asthma, type 1 diabetes and myopia. In addition, excessive mortality (death) was also on the list due to of insufficient sunlight. Yet, although the list of these sun-sensitive diseases is impressive, I must say I was disappointed. They did not mention another 15 cancers and other diseases associated closely to insufficient sunlight. For those cancers, and additional diseases, read the book, Embrace the Sun, which I wrote with Dr. William Grant.

For decades, scientists designated vitamin D as the only photoproduct of sunlight that produced benefits.

One of the paper’s salient points regarding insufficient sunlight and is transcendentally important. I have been emphasizing the point for years, yet much of the world ignores it. The point is that vitamin D is a vital and important photoproduct of sun exposure. Yet, other photoproducts of sunlight are equally vital. This statement by the authors tends to clarify the truth about Vitamin D and its place with human health. “Vitamin D has long been considered the principal mediator of beneficial effects of sun exposure. However, oral vitamin D supplementation has not been convincingly shown to prevent the above conditions; thus, serum 25(OH)D as an indicator of vitamin D status may be a proxy for and not a mediator of beneficial effects of sun exposure.”

The authors also mention that nitric oxide, and direct effects of ultraviolet radiation, may work independently of vitamin D. For example, nitric oxide is a colorless gas, formed by sunlight exposure to  endothelial cells in the skin. It acts as a potent vasodilator and lowers blood pressure. In addition, it is also a potent antioxidant. Of course, insufficient sunlight leads to a lack of nitric oxide, vitamin D and other vital photoproducts.

Here are the explanations used in the review regarding different diseases associated with insufficient sun exposure.  Nevertheless, these diseases do not necessarily improve due to vitamin D supplements. Note: the term nmol/L means nanomoles/ per liter, and U.S. measurements are in ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter). To convert nmol/L to ng/ml, multiply by 2.5. 

  1. All-cause mortality (death) Effects of insufficient sunlight

The review also states that insufficient sunlight is a risk factor for death similar to that of smoking. In addition, people with serum vitamin D levels less than 22 nmol/L, have twice the risk of all-cause death. That is, compared to those whose levels were greater than 125 nmol/ (about 50 ng/ml).  Remember, vitamin D levels in these cases are really proxies for sun exposure.

  1. Breast cancer. Effects of insufficient sunlight

  2. The review quotes research showing a 400% increased breast cancer risk is associated with vitamin D levels less than 50 nmol/L when compared to levels greater than 150 nmol/L. Think sunlight. The vitamin D levels are surrogate measurements for sun exposure.

  3. Colorectal cancer. Effects of insufficient sunlight

    The authors quote a meta-analysis showing a 104% higher risk associated with vitamin D levels less than 30 nmol/L compared to those with levels higher than 82 nmol/L. Interestingly, another study, using animals, showed that neither vitamin D nor UVR (sunlight) was associated with the number of cancer tumors. Nevertheless, ultraviolet radiation (UVR), but not vitamin D, appeared to reduce progression to malignancy. Insufficient sun exposure then, could lead to colorectal cancer.

  1. Cardiovascular disease (CVD), our number-one killer. Effects of insufficient sunlight

In their review, the authors note CVD has been the leading cause of death globally for the last three decades. In addition, hypertension, or high blood pressure is the number-one risk factor for (CVD). The review states that a growing body of evidence shows an inverse relationship between sunlight exposure, blood pressure and CVD. The authors indicate that a mediator other than vitamin D probably contributes to CVD mortality. Thus, nitric oxide, a sun-exposure product and potent vasodilator, may be the chemical that lowers blood pressure and reduces CVD. The researchers further state that those with habitual low sun exposure double the risk of cardiovascular death compared with those who receive the greatest sun exposure. Obviously, insufficient sunlight can be a deadly contributor to CVD due to an inability to produce sufficient nitric oxide.

NItric oxide the super molecule

      5. Metabolic syndrome (MetS). Effects of insufficient sunlight

MetS is a cluster of maladies including glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and high fasting insulin levels. MetS also may include nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity, and cholesterol. All of these factors contribute to heart disease and diabetes. The review noted that UVR suppressed obesity and type 2 diabetes, yet, vitamin D supplementation did not produce the same benefits. The review also suggested that sunlight exposure is an effective suppressor of obesity and MetS through vitamin D-independent mechanisms. 

Other diseases, due to insufficient sunlight, to follow later:

Other diseases in the review also indicated an association to insufficient sunlight. I will expatiate on those diseases in a future blog. Until then, be sure to obtain your share of non-burning, regular sun exposure to your skin. In addition, as autumn arrives, you will need a different source of vitamin D production. This is due to the sun’s UVB light being unavailable in autumn and winter in mid to high latitude areas. Therefore, the suggestion is to use a sunbed, which produces vast quantities of vitamin D. Sunbeds also produce vast quantities of UVA light that stimulate nitric oxide in the skin. Therefore, sunbeds are the perfect answer for those times when there is little sunlight availability.

For more information on the healthful effects of sun exposure, visit Sunlight Institute and read my book, Embrace the Sun.Read Embrace the Sun

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Sunlight for Public Health. Common sense prevails!

Sunlight is essential for public healthSunlight improves public health. By Marc Sorenson, EdD.

An excellent new paper by Dr. Hoel and Dr. de Gruijl is titled “Sun Exposure Public Health Directives.” It decries the vilification of sunlight and suggests people return to its healthful rays.[1] https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/12/2794/htm

So is dermatology awakening to the truth about sunlight?

And one of the authors, Dr. de Gruijl, works at a dermatology department in the Netherlands. He is also a photobiologist and melanoma skin cancer research specialist. It seems like the dermatology world is returning to common sense, since other dermatologists have lately suggested more sunlight exposure. And well they should suggest more sunlight! Sunlight can save millions of lives, yet much of the population is dying in the dark due to misinformation. Many dermatologists consider sunlight exposure to be a killer, and thus frighten their patients away from sun exposure. Why? Because they are fearful of skin damage from sunlight, something they need not fear if they advise their patients properly.

Sunlight and skin cancer: the truth

One of my pet peeves is the statement that “sunlight causes cancer.” First of all, there are about 18 major cancers that are reduced by sunlight. And in addition, there are also myriad non-cancer maladies that are reduced or eliminated by safe sun exposure. These disorders run the gamut from arthritis and heart disease to psoriasis, erectile dysfunction and osteoporosis.[2] Secondly, not even skin cancer is caused by sun exposure unless people burn themselves. Therefore, it is a lack of both caution and common sense that leads to skin damage. The authors state that the public has been taught that health benefits of sun exposure are limited to bone health. That is another egregious error (italics mine).

The aforementioned paper reads almost like a synopsis of Embrace the Sun, the book by Marc Sorenson and William Grant,

Here are the major points on sunlight that make the research in the paper so compelling:

  1. There is a public health message that “overexposure” to the sun causes skin cancer. Nevertheless, those who promote this message do not define overexposure. Therefore, due to the lack of a definition, the public is led to believe that sun exposure is an enemy. In addition, the public is not educated regarding the detriments of “sun avoidance,” or should we say “underexposure.” Due to this omission, the public is exposed to disability, destruction and death (italics mine).

Sunlight deprivation: the staggering cost to human health

Consequently, in Embrace the Sun, we calculated the number of deaths due to diseases associated with high sunlight exposure. And, we then calculated the number of deaths due to diseases associated with sunlight deprivation. As a result, we determined that approximately 1,684,677 yearly deaths are caused by diseases associated with sunlight deprivation. Also, there were about 5125 deaths from diseases associated with high sunlight exposure, producing a ratio of approximately 328.7:1. This is most noteworthy! 328 deaths were associated with diseases of sun deprivation for each death associated with diseases of sun exposure. So, what do you think?

So, is sunlight avoidance risk free?

  1. Furthermore, the paper states that people believe sun avoidance is risk free. That is a colossal error as previously stated,
  2. Another mistake is to believe vitamin D supplements are an adequate substitute for sunlight. That is simply not so. Sun exposure causes the production of serotonin, nitric oxide, endorphin, brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), dopamine and urocanic acid. All of these substances are vital for human health and wellbeing.
  3. Another important point stated by the authors is as follows: “This public health message is potentially causing significant harm to public health and should be changed immediately.” And, based on the analysis from Embrace the Sun, mentioned above, that should be an easy conclusion.

Is there an inverse association between sunlight and melanoma?

  1. The authors also state that melanoma risk is reduced by non-burning sun exposure. And only severe sunburns increase risk. In addition, they mention that melanoma in the U.S. has steadily increased at an annual rate of 3–4%.  There was 1 case per 100,000 in 1935, when accurate records were established. Yet, there were 25.8 cases per 100,000 in 2015. [That is about a 2,600% increase!]

Our analysis of melanoma in Embrace the Sun was almost identical. It showed a 3,000% increase in melanoma risk accompanied by a 90% decrease in sunlight exposure from 1935 to 2015. And, Sunscreen use also increased dramatically during that period, meaning that more sunscreen use is associated with greater melanoma risk.

And should we use sunscreens to reduce sunlight damage?

The answer to that question is “of course not.”

I was surprised that nothing was said about sunscreens, while I was considering the authors’ comment on severe sunburns,  Why? Because recent research has shown that persons who use sunscreens have 4-6 times greater risk of sunburn.[3] In addition, the same research showed that the greatest protection against burning was to seek shade or cover up. Imagine that! Also, a recent meta-analysis showed that sunscreen use made absolutely no difference in the risk of skin cancer.[4].

  1. The authors also make it clear that the common assertion—that tanned skin affords insignificant protection against sunburn—is not correct.
  2. In conclusion, the commentary made this statement: “All persons in the world regardless of skin color or latitude of residence, other than those with extraordinary sensitivity to sunlight, should get enough sun exposure to maintain a serum 25(OH)D level well over 20 ng/mL (desirably at 30–60 ng/mL) while taking care to avoid sunburn.

I agree and would like to reiterate that vitamin D supplements are not an adequate substitute for sunlight. Consequently, these measurements should be used only among those who do not take supplements. That is, if we expect to really measure sunlight exposure.

Embrace the Sun is available here.  Sunlight for public health

Happy sunning!

[1] Hoel D, de Gruijl, F. Sun Exposure Public Health Directives. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018;15:2794

[2] Sorenson, Marc, Grant, WB. Embrace the Sun. Sorenson, Publisher 2018. Available at Amazon.

[3] Kasey L. Morris, PhD; Frank M. Perna, EdD, PhD. Decision Tree Model vs Traditional Measures to Identify Patterns of Sun-Protective Behaviors and Sun Sensitivity Associated With Sunburn. JAMA Dermatol. Published online June 27, 2018.

[4] Elizabet saes da SILVA, Roberto TAVARES, Felipe da silva PAULITSCH, Linjie ZHANG. Eur J Dermatol 2018; 28(2): 186-201.

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