Health Benefits of Sunlight
Sunshine provides several health benefits for free. Even if you do not want to spend any money, you can enjoy the benefit of sunlight and improve your health. Sunlight helps our body produce Vitamin D, which functions as a powerful prohormone.
When the ultraviolet rays from the sun reacts with 7-dehydrocholesterol under your skin, Vitamin D3 is made in the skin. This is transported to the liver, where the liver enzyme converts it to a vitamin D metabolite. This metabolite is stored as Vitamin D in the liver and body fat. The body can also make a supercharged Vitamin D metabolite in the kidney.
The known health benefits of sunlight come from the benefits of Vitamin D. Just ten minutes of strong sunlight during the afternoon allows your body to make as much Vitamin D as from two hundred glasses of milk. Sunlight coming through the glass window does not have this effect because the UV rays cannot penetrate glass. So it is better to get sun exposure outdoors.
The following are some of the health benefits of sunlight:
Prevention of Rickets
Vitamin D from sunlight helps prevent rickets in children. Without Vitamin D, calcium is not absorbed properly from the gut. As a result, rickets leads to softening of bones. Especially if you are vegan, it is even more important to get Vitamin D from the sun because plant sources do not provide Vitamin D.
Prevention of Myopia
New research about myopia shows that sunlight is essential for eyesight. Epidemiological studies consistently show that children who spend 10-14 hours outdoors per week (in addition to time spent outdoors at school) have a lower chance of myopia or short-sightedness. So instead of staying indoors to play computer games and video games, it is a good idea to ask your children to play outside for their eye health.
Protection Against Several Types of Cancer
You may be amazed to read that exposure to sunlight helps prevent several kinds of cancer such as breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and possibly skin cancer. It is hard to believe this because the media keep telling us that sunlight causes skin cancer. While getting sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer, getting Vitamin D from moderate amount of sun exposure lowers your risk of cancer. Robert Heaney, MD, of Creighton University, a vitamin D researcher believes that Vitamin D prevents tiny tumors from growing or spreading.
Prevention of Osteoporosis
As mentioned earlier in this article, Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium from the intestines. So if you do not get adequate Vitamin D from the sunlight, bones become weaker and the risk of fracture increases.
Relief from Depression
Sunlight helps relieve depression and make you happy by increasing production of endorphins such as serotonin. You may have heard of seasonal affective disorder, which affects people who do not get sunlight in the winter. When they are exposed to the sun in the summer, they become happy again.
Endorphin production not only helps relieve depression but also decreases your appetite. Increased level of serotonin will reduce the craving for comfort foods. You may have noticed that you tend to eat a lot when you are stressed. By relieving stress, sunlight helps you lose weight.
Research also shows that obese individuals have lower levels of Vitamin D in their body. However, this may also be due to the fact that they are sedentary and do not go outside as much. On the other hand, people who go outdoors in the sunlight are more likely to be active, which results in weight loss.
If you are outside in the sun, the body stops producing melatonin during the day. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you drowsy and help you fall asleep. This helps adjust the body clock which will then make you sleep better at the right time at night.
Studies also show that sunlight helps prevent auto-immune diseases, multiple sclerosis, asthma, autism, tuberculosis and several other diseases. While these studies show correlation at this point, it is a good idea to pay attention to these studies. For example, a Swedish study has shown that lack of sunlight is linked with autism.
John Cannell, MD, executive director of the Vitamin D Council, a non-profit educational corporation, mentions that the highest rate of autism occurs in areas that receive less sunlight. It is also most likely to occur in families who are likely to avoid sunlight or extremely diligent about sunscreen. Because of fear about the sun, they avoid sunlight or they are extremely protective when they go outside.
Since the sunlight has so many benefits, there is no reason to be afraid of sunlight. Getting moderate amount of sun exposure every day without sunscreen can do wonders to your health. This does not mean that you should get fried in the sun. If your skin is pale, it is a good idea to put some natural sunscreen if you are planning to spend longer outdoors. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables also helps your skin build the natural defense against sunburn.
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