By Marc Sorenson, EdD
We are meant to be in the sunlight for both mental and physical health, and one of the most important phases for sunlight exposure is early life. We have previously discussed such diseases as autism, low bone strength and type-one diabetes as being related to lack of sunlight either in the formative years or even in the womb.
One of the latest pieces of research involves the onset of bipolar disorder (BD), a mental condition characterized by alternating mania and depression, usually interspersed with normal mood. The disorder was previously called manic-depressive illness.
In an 11-nation study, the U.S. was found to have the highest rate of BD and India lowest rate. Or perhaps we should use the word “risk” rather than “rate.” Is it possible that greater sunlight exposure plays a part in India’s lower risk? Research has yet to determine that answer, but a recent study may “shed some light” on the subject. In the Journal of Psychiatric Research, a team of about 50 scientists studied the influence of light exposure during early life on the age of onset of BD. The study covered 23 different countries at different latitudes and assessed light exposure in the early lives of 3896 BD patients. It was found that more sunlight exposure in the first three months of life was associated with a later onset of the disease. The researchers felt that sunlight during this time helped set the circadian rhythms later in life. The researchers concluded with this statement: “This study indirectly supports the concept that early life exposure to light may affect the long term adaptability to respond to a circadian challenge later in life.”
It would be interesting to know if the overall risk of BD is lower in countries or areas where people receive the most sunlight in infancy, of for that matter, during a lifetime. This research, however, shows us that our children, even our little ones, should receive regular, non-burning sunlight exposure.
 Amanda Gardner. U.S. has highest bipolar rate in 11-nation study. Heath.com. March 7, 2011. http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/07/US.highest.bipolar.rates/ Accessed July 21, 2015.
 Bauer M, Glenn T, Alda M, Andreassen OA, Angelopoulos E, Ardau R, Baethge C, Bauer R8, et al. Influence of light exposure during early life on the age of onset of bipolar disorder. J Psychiatr Res. 2015 May;64:1-8
By Marc Sorenson, EdD Sunlight Institute
Recent research, again involving Dr. Richard Weller, demonstrates that Sunlight exposure may prevent liver inflammation in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is the most prevalent liver disorder in western countries. The authors of this research state then state the following possible mechanism: “Following exposure to sunlight-derived ultraviolet radiation (UVR), the skin releases anti-inflammatory mediators such as vitamin D and nitric oxide.”
Though there has been no proof that sunlight works for humans (no research yet), the authors indicate that animal studies suggest that exposure to sunlight (UVR), can prevent the development of NAFLD.
They also note that most of the credit for these positive results has focused on vitamin D, yet clinical trials have yet to demonstrate a clear, beneficial effect of supplementation; therefore, they suggest that other mediators such as nitric oxide may be important. This is another of those studies that demonstrates the possibility that sunlight has positive affects on a disease independently of vitamin D. Future research may clarify that idea.
Until then, regular sun exposure may be good insurance for a healthy liver.
 Gorman S, Black LJ, Feelisch M, Hart PH, Weller R. Can skin exposure to sunlight prevent liver inflammation? Nutrients 2015 May 5;7(5):3219-39.
Marc Sorenson EdD, Sunlight Institute
Our purposes for the Sunlight Institute are to tell the truth about the marvelous benefits of sunlight and to help people to understand that they are being lied to by those who would frighten us out of the sun, aka the Sunscare Movement. A recent press release by the Vitamin D Society of Canada may go a long way toward those goals. The release summarizes information from a new study by Carole Baggerly and several of her academic colleagues, and “examines how entities such as World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and the U.S. Surgeon General call for sun avoidance, but ignore the fact that cutting out sunshine will reduce vitamin D, an essential vitamin for bone health, and create probable harm for the general population.” That statement is particularly true, I believe, for those living in Canada.
The release is excellent, but I only wish that they had mentioned the production of serotonin, endorphins and nitric oxide by sunlight—all of which have remarkable health influences on the human body and brain.
Nevertheless, this release is a must read and my hope is that it will be widely distributed. Truth marches on. Here is the link to the news release: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1570075/overly-restrictive-sun-exposure-warnings-pose-health-risk-says-new-study
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
Some common-sense scientists understand that UV light is nearly 100% effective for many dermatological conditions, and that tanning beds are very convenient sources of UV for patients who cannot otherwise afford the rigorous travel and time commitments necessary to visit the dermatologist.[i] Their investigation involved an arduous search for scientific papers that reported on tanning beds and their salutary affects on different skin diseases.
The searches showed convincingly that tanning beds were a valid use for psoriasis, but also indicated tanning beds could be useful “as a treatment option for atopic dermatitis, mycosis fungoides, acne, scleroderma, vitiligo, and pruritus, as well as other UV sensitive dermatoses.”
The conclusion they reached was amazing, considering negative reports that are regularly touted by the press. They stated: “Unsupervised sun exposure is a standard recommendation for some patients to obtain phototherapy. Selected use of commercial tanning beds in the treatment of dermatologic conditions may be another useful and effective treatment for those patients with an inability to access office-based or home-based phototherapy.”[Italics mine]
One of the dermatologists who recommends unsupervised sun exposure as stated above is Dr. Julie Moore of Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. She says that sunlight is one of the best ways to treat psoriasis, so she recommends that her patients “sit out on the deck and give their affected areas a good sun bath.[ii]”
Hallelujah! Common sense is beginning to penetrate the dermatology profession, as more dermatologists are climbing on the sunlight bandwagon each year. Now go and spend some safe, non-burning time in the sunlight!
[i] Radack KP, Farhangian ME, Anderson KL, Feldman SR. A review of the use of tanning beds as a dermatological treatment. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2015 Mar;5(1):37-51.
[ii] Science News, August 6, 2013. Summer sun good for psoriasis sufferers says Gottlieb dermatologist.
Marc Sorenson, EdD
IBD consists of two primary diseases, ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). UC is a chronic inflammatory condition characterized by relapsing and remitting episodes of inflammation limited to the mucosal layer of the colon.  Crohn’s however, can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus but most commonly affects the small intestine or the colon or both. The most common symptoms of IBD are abdominal pain, weight loss, fever, rectal bleeding, skin and eye irritations and diarrhea.
In a 12-year year investigation of hundreds of thousands of IBD patients, measuring both UC and CD, hospitalizations and prolonged hospitalizations for both diseases were higher among those who had low sunlight exposure compared to those with very high sunlight exposure. The same relationship was shown between sunlight, bowel surgeries and deaths; more surgeries were needed for those patients who experienced the lowest sunlight exposure compared to those who had the highest sunlight exposure, and more deaths occurred among those with low exposure.
An interesting side note to this investigation was that a large number of non-IBD patients were also analyzed for sunlight exposure amounts. As with the IBD patients, low sunlight exposure was associated with prolonged hospitalizations and more deaths when compared with high exposure.
French research has shown that high residential sun exposure is associated with a low risk of CD, but not UC. Women who were in the highest third of sunlight exposure had only half the risk of CD compared to those in the lowest third, but UC was increased 21% by high sunlight exposure. This study was the only one I have seen—other than studies on non-melanoma skin cancer—that indicated a positive association of sunlight exposure with disease risk. None of the other studies mentioned here showed that relationship with UC. Another interesting side note to this research was that vitamin D intake was not associated with decreased risk of CD.
It has also been shown that in both Europe and the US, there is a north-south gradient for IBD, meaning that the risk of developing IBD is significantly lower for the southern latitudes (where sunlight exposure is greater). And finally, another French study has demonstrated that low sunlight exposure is associated with an increased incidence of Crohn’s disease.
So for a healthy gut, sunlight exposure plays a vital role.
 Mark A Peppercorn, Adam S Cheifetz, Paul Rutgeerts, Shilpa Grover. Definition, epidemiology, and risk factors in inflammatory bowel disease. Uptodate http://www.uptodate.com/contents/definition-epidemiology-and-risk-factors-in-inflammatory-bowel-disease. Accessed July 1, 2015.
 Web MD http://www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease/crohns-disease/inflammatory-bowel-syndrome. Accessed July 1, 2015.
 Limketkai BN1, Bayless TM, Brant SR, Hutfless SM. Lower regional and temporal ultraviolet exposure is associated with increased rates and severity of inflammatory bowel disease hospitalization. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Sep;40(5):508-17.
 Jantchou P1, Clavel-Chapelon F, Racine A, Kvaskoff M, Carbonnel F, Boutron-Ruault MC. High residential sun exposure is associated with a low risk of incident Crohn’s disease in the prospective E3N cohort. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2014 Jan;20(1):75-81.
 Schultz M1, Butt AG. Is the north to south gradient in inflammatory bowel disease a global phenomenon? Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Aug;6(4):445-7.
 Nerich V1, Jantchou P, Boutron-Ruault MC, Monnet E, Weill A, Vanbockstael V, Auleley GR, Balaire C, Dubost P, Rican S, Allemand H, Carbonnel F. Low exposure to sunlight is a risk factor for Crohn’s disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Apr;33(8):940-5.
.Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
While perusing the medical and scientific literature for research that would be pertinent for my upcoming book on the value of sunlight exposure, I found a most interesting paper on sunlight exposure and bone strength.[i] The researchers searched the literature on three groups of patients, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Stroke which correlated to very high fracture rates among patients suffering from those diseases. They then found three randomized, controlled studies that determined the efficacy of sunlight exposure for reducing the risk of hip fractures in patients with these diseases.
In each study, there was a control group that did not receive the exposure and an experimental group that received regular sunlight exposure to a small part of the body daily for a year. The results were impressive: For Alzheimer’s patients, the reduction in hip fractures was 78% compared to the controls who stayed inside; for Parkinson’s patients, 73%; for stroke patients, 83%. Overall, the risk of the hip fracture was reduced by 77% in the sunlight exposed groups. Bone mass also increased in each sunlight-exposed group, so osteoporosis was obviously reversed. Did you even realize that such a thing was possible? You probably knew it only if you have been reading the Sunlight Institute blogs. There is an even more impressive study that I always mention when writing about sunlight and osteoporosis. For example, an investigation from Spain in 2008 concluded that women who actively participated in sun exposure had one-eleventh the chance of a hip fracture as those who stayed indoors.[ii] It appears from the materials on the different disease groups mentioned above, that reversibility is a reality, but how much more important is it to prevent the disease in the first place? The women in Spain did exactly that.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that osteoporosis was responsible for more than 2 million fractures in 2005, including 297,000 hip fractures, 547,000 vertebral fractures, 397,000 wrist fractures, 135,000 pelvic fractures and 675,000 fractures at other sites. The foundation also estimates that the number of osteoporotic fractures is expected to rise to more than 3,000,000 by 2025, and that an average 24 % of hip-fracture patients aged 50 and over die within one year following the occurrence of their fracture.[iii] If we take 24% of just the hip fractures that cause death we see that osteoporosis kills at least 71,280 people per year. Larrosa, M. Vitamin D deficiency and related factors in patients with osteoporotic hip fracture. Med Clin (BARC) 2008;130:6-9.
Do you believe that it might be worth a daily sunbath to save the lives of 70,000 people per year? Do you believe that it would be worth daily exposure (unprotected by sunscreen) to the sun (when possible) to reduce your own risk of fracture? Then why don’t we know about these statistics and the marvelous prophylactic effects of sunlight? That answers are simple: (1) it doesn’t sell any Fosamax or Boniva. (2) It doesn’t sell any noxious, deadly sunscreens. (3) It would be unthinkable for most dermatologists to admit that soaking up a little sun each day might be good for us. It has been said, “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”[iv] Now you have boned up on bone strength and sunlight, and you know the truth.
My fervent hope is that all may be free from the deceptions of those who would ignore the truth in favor of making another dollar.
[i] Iwamoto J, Takeda T, Matsumoto H. Sunlight exposure is important for preventing hip fractures in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke. Acta Neurol Scand. 2012 Apr;125(4):279-84
[ii] Larrosa, M. Vitamin D deficiency and related factors in patients with osteoporotic hip fracture. Med Clin (BARC) 2008;130:6-9.
[iii] National Osteoporosis Foundation, Fast Facts on Osteoporosis. Accessed Nov. 20, 2009 at http://www.nof.org/osteoporosis/diseasefacts.htm
[iv] John 8:32 (KJV)
Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
The Daily Mail, from the UK, recently posted an article regarding sunlight and fertility that should catch some interest.
Infertility is a problem that causes some couples to seek help from in vitro fertilization (IVF). New research shows that sunlight exposure for a month prior to the procedure increase the odds of success by 35%. Dr. Frank Vandekerckhove, who reported the research, looked at the IVF results of about 6,000 women and compared the dates of their treatment with weather conditions. The more sunshine, the greater likelihood of becoming pregnant. Dr. Vandekerckhove said that sunshine a month before conception probably helped a woman’s eggs to mature. He also mentioned that there is no reason to think that a burst of sunshine won’t also help women trying to get pregnant naturally.
There is nothing really new about the effects of sunlight on fertility, and this work by Vandekerckhove is not the first to establish the link of sunlight to IVF. Much has also been studied regarding natural, non- laboratory fertility. Low vitamin D, which is primarily a result of low sunlight exposure, is closely related to the ability to conceive in both women and men. Couples spend thousands of dollars on fertility clinics and IVF when perhaps all they need is some time in the sun.
In an article posted on Emax health, entitled Sex in the Sun May Increase Your Fertility it is pointed out that approximately 15% of couples who want to conceive are plagued by problems of fertility. Drs. Elisabeth Lerchbaum and Barbara Obermayer-Pietsch, in 2012, conducted a review of articles on vitamin D and fertility and came to these conclusions: “VDR knockout mice [mice whose vitamin D doesn’t work due to inability to link to receptors at the cellular level] have significant gonadal insufficiency, decreased sperm count and motility, and histological abnormalities of testis, ovary and uterus.” They also point out that vitamin D is involved in female reproduction—including IVF outcome, so it is a bit surprising that the article in the Daily Mail gave the impression that the research by Vandekerckhove was a totally new concept.
The review also stated that in men, higher vitamin D levels are positively associated with semen quality and androgen (male hormone) status, and that vitamin D treatment might increase testosterone levels.
One thing that is missing in these excellent studies is any discussion of the production of nitric oxide (NO) by sunlight exposure. NO is a potent vasodilator that is essential for proper erection in men, meaning it relaxes the blood vessels, allowing the blood to pass more easily through the vessels. Without it erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs. Viagra, Cialis and other such ED drugs work through a Nitric Oxide pathway and act by keeping NO in circulation for a longer period. But they don’t work in about one-third of the cases, and the effect diminishes over time, not to mention the side effects such as headaches, body aches and pains, gastrointestinal distress, dizziness, vision changes, flushing, congestion and runny nose. Since sunlight exposure increases NO, it is probably a better choice. For those who wish to produce a pregnancy, ED could be a devastating problem, and sunlight may be the answer.
Sunlight exposure has so many positive properties that we may never know them all. Use non-burning sunlight safely. Here’s to a successful pregnancy and a sunny family life!
Vandekerckhove, F. Presentation at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) annual conference in Lisbon, Portugal, from June 14 to 17.
 Lerchbaum E1, Obermayer-Pietsch B. Vitamin D and fertility: a systematic review. Eur J Endocrinol. 2012 May;166(5):765-7.
 Burnett AL. The role of nitric oxide in erectile dysfunction: implications for medical therapy. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2006 Dec;8(12 Suppl 4):53-62.
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
While contemplating my youth, growing up on our farm and ranch on the Utah/Nevada border, I mused on the amount of sunlight exposure that the hard summer work required. I was in the fields much of the time and spent a lot of time moving irrigation water, bucking hay bales and building and repairing fences. When the work allowed it, I shed my shirt until the sun became uncomfortable and then donned my cowboy hat and a long-sleeved shirt to protect against getting too much of that wonderful UV light. Some work, such as throwing hay bales on wagons, did not allow a bare body, because alfalfa hay is very scratchy. Much of the time, however, I was able to soak up the sun, going shirtless whether driving a tractor or chasing down recalcitrant cattle and sheep on my horse. My hands were often in the earth as I planted gardens and barley and alfalfa fields. Occasionally, I overdid the sun exposure and paid the price with a sunburn, but that was an infrequent occurrence. My friends called me “the brown man” although I am a blue-eyed, light skinned Caucasian. My tan was very deep; hence the moniker.
Those halcyon days of my youth were summer days, and I was never ill in that season; all of that sunlight kept me well, and it also helped to keep my mood elevated. Melanoma was never a worry for me or for the other farm boys and girls who lived in that area, and I have heard of no one who grew up there who ever contracted the disease, although they had the same ethnicity as I. Of course, lack of melanoma was to be expected, because people who spend much of their life in the sun are far less likely to contract melanoma than those whose stay indoors. For example, Diane Godar and her colleagues have presented evidence that outdoor workers, while receiving 3-9 times the sunlight exposure as indoor workers, have had no increase in melanoma since before 1940, whereas melanoma incidence in indoor workers has increased steadily and exponentially.  
This cogitating on my youth was triggered by reading an article entitled A senior moment: Get ‘down and dirty’ — Gardening is good for you! It discussed all the benefits of gardening and related some research regarding its therapeutic use:
Exercise that strengthens both the upper-and lower-body muscles, and especially hand strength
Reduces heart rate
Lowers blood pressure
Exposes the body to sunlight (hooray) to reset the circadian rhythms and combat depression
Promotes better nutrition
Gives a better sense of time
Of course, some of these benefits of gardening are really benefits of sunlight, as mentioned in the article. However, there may be another factor at play; when we connect with the earth, it improves our health, including heart health and mood through a transfer of electrons from the earth to our bodies.
What have we lost as we have adopted our sedentary, indoor lifestyles? Among other things, we have lost our good nutrition, our sunlight exposure and our contact with the earth. It is no wonder that working in a garden has such beneficial effects on our health! It gives us back at least some of our basic human health needs. So if you don’t have a garden, find one and get out in the sunlight!
Having been reminded of some of those vital needs, I am anticipating with alacrity my upcoming week at my Nevada ranch, where I will rusticate with my wife Vicki and my friends, Drs. Bill Grant and Adiel Tel-Oren. We will be soaking up the sunshine, feeling the dark mountain soil, eating nutritious foods and exulting in the beauty of the aspens and pines. We will also be renewing friendships with the birds, the ducks, the deer, the Elk, the wild turkeys and other wildlife that have no worries about us, because we don’t kill and eat them.
Sunlight, peace and friendships—it doesn’t get any better than this!
 Godar D, Landry, R, Lucas, A. Increased UVA exposures and decreased cutaneous Vitamin D3 levels may be responsible for the increasing incidence of melanoma. Med Hypotheses 2009;72(4):434-43
 Godar D. UV doses worldwide. Photochem Photobiol 2005;81:736–49.
 Thieden E, Philipsen PA, Sandby-Møller J, Wulf HC. UV radiation exposure related to age, sex, occupation, and sun behavior based on time-stamped personal dosimeter readings. Arch Dermatol 2004;140:197–203.
 Oschman JL, Chevalier G, Brown R. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. J Inflamm Res. 2015 Mar 24;8:83-96.
 Chevalier G, Sinatra ST, Oschman JL, Delany RM. Earthing (grounding) the human body reduces blood viscosity-a major factor in cardiovascular disease. J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Feb;19(2):102-10
 Chevalier G. The effect of grounding the human body on mood. Psychol Rep. 2015 Apr;116(2):534-43
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
Nearly all research shows a positive association between sunlight and bone strength. One of the most interesting of these studies measured heel-bone stiffness (a measurement of bone strength) and various lifestyle factors among Okinawan men with and without type-two diabetes.[i]
The research demonstrated that among the group with type-two diabetes, there were a significant negative correlation between cigarette smoking heel bone stiffness. That negative correlation also was evident with age. Other factors did not produce a significant correlation in the diabetic group; however, in the non-diabetic (control) group, a significant positive correlation was shown between heel-bone stiffness and two other factors: (1) sunlight exposure and (2) consumption of small fish. Of the two, sunlight exposure predicted greater bone strength.
It is probable that the vitamin D produced by sunlight exposure led to increased heel bone strength in the control group. It is also possible that lack of sunlight in the diabetic group may have been one of the predisposing factors that initially led to diabetes in the diabetic group, as it has been shown that vitamin D supplementation in pre-diabetic subjects predict a dramatically reduced risk of developing the full-blown disease.[ii] Sunlight exposure, of course, is the most natural way to produce vitamin D.
Keep your heels—and the rest or your bones—strong by obtaining plenty of non-burning sunlight!
[i] Michiko Gushiken, Ichiro Komiya, Shinichiro Ueda, Jun Kobayashi. Heel bone strength is related to lifestyle factors in Okinawan men with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Diabetes Invest 2015; 6: 150–157
[ii] Pittas, A. et al. The effects of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on blood glucose and markers of inflammation in nondiabetic adults. Diabetes Care 2007;30:980-86.