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Why sunshine can benefit us now, like it couldn't before

NOW: Why sunshine can benefit us now, like it couldn’t before

The start of spring has more perks than you may think. One of them is that we can finally start receiving Vitamin D from the sun again! This is something that many people believe is possible year-round, but it is not. In fact, the lack of sun exposure for many of us in the northern hemisphere, is the reason why illness becomes more common in the winter. Vitamin D has many health benefits including bone health and immune function, but it is found in very few foods. The main source of Vitamin D for humans is the sun and vitamins. 

Overall, keeping up with Vitamin D intake just makes us feel better, and now, going out in the sun will help us boost our intake. Here is how it works: 

The sun sends UV radiation to the earth, including UVC, UVB and UVA, but a majority of the UV radiation is blocked from reaching the earth's surface by the ozone layer. UVC is entirely blocked out, UVB is mostly blocked out, and the majority of UVA reaches the ground. However, UVB is the only radiation that does us any good. Ninety-nine percent of UVB is blocked by the ozone, and since it has a shorter wavelength, it has to pass through the ozone at the easiest access point. The easiest access points are where the ozone is thinnest, so near the equator, or when the sun is directly (or nearly) overhead. 

When UVB rays make contact with our skin, our skin photosynthesizes to make the Vitamin D3 hormone. Vitamin D3 that is stored in our skin may last twice as long as Vitamin D3 intake via vitamins.

In late March, the sun is finally at a high enough angle over Michiana's latitude (41.6 N) that not all of the UVB is blocked by the ozone. As the sun keeps shining further into the northern hemisphere during summer, more UVB will make it to the ground, because of the more direct angle. May, June, July and August are the peak months to get Vitamin D from the sun. Currently, the best time of day to get some Vitamin D outside is around the solar noon, which is around 1:50 PM. As we head further into the peak months, this time window will expand. Eventually, during May through August, the best times of day will be from 12PM to 3PM. 

 

We cannot forget that the sun can be dangerous, and both UVB and UVA rays can cause skin cancer and eye problems like cataracts. Therefore, soaking in UVB for the Vitamin D can be a good thing, but once you get sun burnt, all of the benefits are pretty much squashed by the risks. 


Sources:

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health:

Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin

Sunlight and Vitamin D, A global perspective for health

Vitamin D Fact Sheet

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Marcus 212 days ago
It was good to see someone say some positive things about the sun. However, there are some points that are not correct. There is much more to sunlight than just the vitamin D stimulating effects of UVB. UVA stimulates the production of nitric oxide, which rapidly lowers blood pressure. And interestingly, UVA, through nitric oxide, helps to alleviate erectile dysfunction. The sun also increases the quantity of three natural stimulants that enhance mood: serotonin, endorphin and dopamine. Brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), is also increased by sun exposure; it helps the nervous system to perform its job and prevents deterioration of nerve cells. Here are a few more facts about the healthful effects of sunshine:
•Seventy-five percent of melanoma occurs on body areas that are seldom or never exposed to sun.
•Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors.
•Sun deprivation leads to approximately the same increase in all-cause death as cigarette smoking.
•Multiple sclerosis (MS) is highest in areas of little sunlight, and virtually disappears in areas of year-round direct sunlight.
•A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as sun avoiders.
•Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.
•An Iranian study showed that women who avoid sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer.
Regularly non-burning sun exposure can reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease by 98%.
•Sun exposure increases nitric oxide, which leads to a decrease in heart disease risk.
•Sun exposure dramatically improves mood through production of serotonin and endorphin.
•Sun exposure increases the production of BDNF, essential to nerve function.
•Sun exposure can produce as much as 20,000 IU of vitamin D in 20 minutes of full-body sun exposure.
•Sun deprivation is as dangerous as cigarette smoking in terms of all-cause death.
•In the U.S. vitamin D deficiency in children increased by 83 times during a 14 year period. That is likely due to indoor living and sunscreen use. More information: Sunlightinstitute.org, and read Dr. Marc Sorenson's book, Embrace the Sun.

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