We all know by now that excessive exposure to sunlight – particularly ultraviolet (UV) radiation – can be harmful to our skin. As a result, health organizations typically recommend that we stay in the shade, use sunscreen and to cover up to reduce the risks associated with too much sun.
However, these protective measures may be causing us to miss out on the very real mental and physical health benefits of the sun. Sun exposure is, for example, the body’s main source of vitamin D, a vitamin which many people are deficient in, possibly because of how much time we spend indoors.
Not getting enough vitamin D could have serious health implications, as a recent study showed that vitamin D deficiency is connected to a higher risk of death from all causes.
Vitamin D is not the only benefit of spending time in the sun. Sunlight exposure has also been shown to boost mood, fight inflammation, aid in soothing skin disorders, and lower blood pressure. Furthermore, the newest research on sunlight shows that its benefits go even further in keeping us healthy and protecting us from disease: it may actually help to prevent diabetes and obesity.
The study, published in the journal Diabetes, found that ultraviolet radiation (found in sunlight) slows weight gain and fends off the “warning signs” of diabetes, like insulin resistance and abnormal glucose levels. The study was performed on mice, who were fed a high fat diet in order to induce obesity and diabetes. The mice were then exposed to moderate amounts of UV radiation. Results showed that they gained less weight and developed the warning signs of diabetes slower than those not exposed to the UV radiation.
What surprised the researchers was that the benefits had nothing to do with vitamin D. Instead, they were caused by the body’s release of nitric oxide, which is also triggered by UV radiation. The body’s release of this compound is also what causes blood pressure to lower after sun exposure.
This study has important implications for both diabetes treatment and prevention, as well as for the way we view the sun and its relationship to health. A co-author of the study, Prue Hart, described the findings as a “double whammy,” as they might encourage people to exercise outside and get the combined benefits of the sun and the physical activity.
It also provides us with a valuable lesson: even though it is crucial to be cautious when exposing ourselves to the sun, it’s also important that we do not forget the healing power of sun exposure in moderation. As dermatologist Richard Weller said about the study:
“We know sun-seekers live longer than those who spend their lives in the shade. Studies such as this are helping us to understand how the sun can be good for us. We need to remember that skin cancer is not the only disease that can kill us and should perhaps balance our advice on sun exposure.”
Vitamin D2 vs D3
It is important to note that there are actually two different types of vitamin D and that the two are not interchangeable. Vitamin D2 is synthetic and is made by irradiating fungus and plant matter -and is not the same as that which is produced by the body when it is exposed to sunlight which is vitamin D3. Here are some things you should know about vitamin D2 and D3.
- Research indicates that D3 is more than 85% more effective in raising and keeping vitamin D levels elevated than vitamin D2. It also produces more storage of vitamin D than D2.
- Vitamin D2 has a relatively short shelf life and does not bind well with proteins, making it less effective than D3.
- D3 is converted 500 times faster than vitamin D2.
So, while the best source of vitamin D remains the sun, few of us ever get the amount we need. This is why having a pure, high-quality D3 supplement is important to ensure that your body is getting the daily recommended amount.
-The Alternative Daily