How Sunlight Can Prevent Serious Health Problems
Each year lack of sunlight probably kills many thousands more people in this country and others at similar latitudes than skin cancer. At first glance this may seem a rather outrageous statement but it could be true. In 1995 almost 1400 men and women in England and Wales died of malignant melanoma. Coronary heart disease killed 139,000 of their compatriots in the same year. Clearly, if sunlight had only a small protective effect against heart disease then the number of lives saved by regular moderate exposure to the sun would greatly outweigh the number lost to malignant melanoma. The same argument can be applied to a number of other serious degenerative and infectious diseases that together claim hundreds of thousands of lives in Britain each year, and which appear to be associated with sunlight deprivation.
Many diseases linked to inadequate levels of vitamin D in the body, despite this, until quite recently, comparatively little research has been carried out into the effects of vitamin D on the immune system.
Diseases related to lack of sunlight:
Elevated blood pressure
Seasonal Affective Disorder
How Common is Vitamin D Deficiency?
The elderly are often house bound or confined to nursing homes and are unable to get into the sun. So, if they do not take vitamin D to compensate for lack ofsunlight, and their diets are lacking in calcium, they are at considerable risk from fractures and bone disorders. As far as oral supplements are concerned, some of the latest research suggests that in the absence of sunlight the elderly may need as much as 800 ID of vitamin D a day, and this level of supplementation may be required after only a few weeks spent indoors. This is enough time for the effects of sunlight deprivation to become apparent if you have not built up reserves of vitamin D to cope with it.
Vitamin D deficiency is not restricted to the house bound elderly. A study of young men on normal diets who were deprived of sunlight by being kept indoors at the Royal Navy’s Institute of Naval Medicine, showed that within six weeks their vitamin D stores had fallen sufficiently to cause inadequate absorption of calcium and a negative calcium balance. After two months of this regime their vitamin D levels had fallen by half and they had begun to lose calcium at a faster rate than they could take it in. By the tenth week there was a shortfall of one third in the calcium intake they needed to maintain a healthy balance. So, the prospects for anyone on a normal diet who is housebound or institutionalized are not favourable if they are unable to get out into the sun. Patients who have been in hospital for several weeks are clearly at risk.
Having looked at the vitamin D status of the elderly and institutionalized, what about the wider populations of northern industrialized nations? Is vitamin D deficiency as common amongst otherwise healthy adults in the general population as it appears to be amongst the elderly? Researchers at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital recently found that 66 per cent of patients on a general medical ward who consumed less than the recommended daily amount of vitamin D were deficient. These patients were younger than those in many earlier studies of vitamin D status, with an average age of 62 years, and only a minority of them were housebound or residents of a nursing home before being admitted, so they could be considered to be broadly representative of the general population.
What is particularly striking about the findings of this research, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicinein 1998, is that low levels were found in 46 per cent of patients taking multivitamins, many of which contained 400 IU of vitamin D. Of the patients who had actually consumed more than the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D for their age, one in three were still deficient. One possible explanation for this shortfall is that when the recommended daily intakes were calculated for the citizens of the United States it was assumed that everyone would be getting a proportion of their vitamin D from the sun. Hospital patients, as we have already seen, are not well placed to do this. But if the general population in urban areas in the United States are not taking the recommended amount and are not getting out in the sun either, then it is reasonable to conclude that the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency, if not deficiency, is rather high.
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Light helps you stay healthy and during the winter in Colorado, it’s harder for most of us to get enough natural light to have ideal Vitamin D levels and serotonin production for healthy living. Visit our Tanning Superstore in Boulder, Colorado, the artificial UV created by sun beds has the same positive effect as sunshine. Our tanning professionals at Veranda Sun know how to help you control the right amount of tanning your skin needs. Learn more about How Tanning Works and Tips and Safety for Tanning in Boulder, CO.
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