In defense of the sun


The sun has taken a beating in the last century or so. Once worshiped as a deity by many cultures, most memorably by the Egyptians, it has now been relegated to the same status as cigarettes, arm pit hair and nuclear waste. Women and children in particular slather sun block over every exposed piece of skin before even thinking about going outside, and kids are even told to stay inside when it is too sunny. But is this attitude justified, or even healthy for that matter?

By blocking out the sun, we are denying ourselves much needed vitamin D. Our skin creates vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet light for 10-15 minutes a couple of times a week. Sounds simple enough, but when you intentionally cover every inch of skin with sun screen or work indoors all day, it is easy to short change yourself of this vital dietary component with disastrous results.

"Recent studies showed that, following the successful "Slip-Slop-Slap" health campaign encouraging Australians to cover up when exposed to sunlight to prevent skin cancer, an increased number of Australians and New Zealanders became vitamin D deficient.[12] Ironically, there are indications that vitamin D deficiency may lead to skin cancer.[23]" (more)

"Earlier studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with an increased risk for several cancers. Now comes word that it may also be a major cause of unexplained muscle and bone pain.

In a study involving 150 children and adults with unexplained muscle and bone pain, almost all were found to be vitamin D deficient; many were severely deficient with extremely low levels of vitamin D in their bodies." (more)

"Insufficient intake of vitamin D may lead to decreased physical strength, increased muscle weakness and increased risk of disability in older women and men, according to a new study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences." (more)

"Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, infectious diseases and heart disease. Donald L. Trump, M.D., and CEO of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, says, "Vitamin D appears to have effects that are expressed in a number of tissues, nerves, muscles, the immune system, the clotting system. Many areas of health may be impaired if vitamin D deficiency exists."" (more)

It appears that hiding from the sun is not making us healthier. But I know what you are thinking..."What about my skin?" We've been told for years that sun exposure will cause wrinkles, age spots, dry rough skin, and possibly cancer. But is that damage the sun's fault? The answer my lie in a little experiment I did over 4 years ago involving another vitamin...vitamin C.

On a skin care forum, vitamin C's effectiveness as a skin care treatment was discussed. Vitamin C is the basis for several VERY expensive skin care lotions and serums, and news stories at the time touted Vitamin C's virtues. So I did my own experiment where I applied a vitamin C mix to one side of my face only. After 2 weeks, there was a slight but noticeable difference in my skin on the treated side. I did manage to get rid of some fine lines and make deeper wrinkles a bit shallower. The Vitamin C was helping repair damage to my skin that, according to conventional wisdom, was caused by all those sun burns and the sun exposure I received as a wild, sun-loving, half-naked child. 

So what does this have to do with vitamin D you ask? Well, it ties in with scientific data about carbohydrates and wrinkles. Carbohydrates destroy your skin's collagen, leaving your face saggy and wrinkled. While the sun is usually blamed for this, I am thinking it is a combination of the carbohydrate effect on collagen and one other side effect of carbohydrate increased need for vitamin C.

"The vitamin C molecule is similar in configuration to glucose and other sugars in the body....glucose and vitamin C strangers trying to flag down the same taxicab simultaneously. Because glucose is greatly favored in the contest, the uptake of vitamin C by cells is "globally inhibited" when blood sugar levels are elevated." - Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes (page 325).

As far as I can tell, what this all means is that your body is made to spend time in the sun. It uses sunshine to create vitamin D. It also uses vitamin C to take care of any problems you might have if you get some extra sunlight. However, by changing our diets to rely primarily on carbohydrates, we have destroyed the body's ability to protect against sun damage, while at the same time creating an environment that promotes the growth of cancer cells. The sun may merely be a convenient scape goat in the skin cancer arena, much like saturated fat is unjustifiably blamed for heart disease.

It may take some time for hard facts on this subject to come to light. Considering the unwillingness of authorities to believe carbs might be bad for you, I wont be holding my breath waiting for the mainstream to accept sun exposure as a good thing. I, however, think I do need to get some more sun. Not only because I have the complexion of a cadaver, but because I would like to keep my health well in to old age. So if you want to talk to me further about this topic, stop by my place. I'll be in the back yard sunbathing naked (just be careful of the glare).