Sunshine makes us happy...and healthy
Finally, we are seeing a bit more sunshine as this summer slowly reveals itself.
Interestingly, research has shown that moderate unprotected skin exposure, even in very warm sunny climates does not increase the risk of skin cancer and in fact, conveys many health benefits.
Enhanced Vitamin D synthesis is one of them.
Supplements are fine, and perhaps necessary in some cases of more severe vitamin deficiency. However, exposure to natural light and sunshine can result in the natural synthesis of up to 10,000 IU of Vitamin D...far more than a typical supplement provides.
Vitamin D is, in fact, a hormone, one which influences the expression of many genes. This makes sense given that we, homo sapiens, spent most of our evolutionary years in sunny Africa before migrating eastwards and eventually north. As such our bodies, and genes which direct them, need sunshine and with it Vitamin D to thrive.
Some of the genes which rely on Vitamin D for their expression include:
- The POMC gene which codes for pro-opiomelanocortin. This protein, when cleaved, provides peptides which form melanin, the skin pigment which protects against sun damage, as well as beta-endorphin which makes us feel good. This may partly explain why being in the sun creates such a strong sense of wellbeing.
- The P53 spellchecker gene which controls orderly cell division and helps protect against cancers.
- The BGLAP gene which is encoded to produce osteocalcin, the compound which builds and strengthens the bone.
As such it is recommended we should be trying to get outside for at least thirty minutes a day, ideally when it’s brightest and expose as much skin as you can. Further, supplement with a good Vitamin D product if blood tests reveal an insufficiency. Vitamin D does not act on its own so try to eat a diet rich in colourful vegetables, organically grown and ideally produced locally for maximum nutrient benefit.
In good health,
Holick MF, Chen TC. Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2008 Apr 1;87(4):1080S-6S.
Holick MF. Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2004 Dec 1;80(6):1678S-88S.
Liu GS, Tsai HE, Weng WT, Liu LF, Weng CH, Chuang MR, Lam HC, Wu CS, Tee R, Wen ZH, Howng SL. Systemic pro-opiomelanocortin expression induces melanogenic differentiation and inhibits tumour angiogenesis in established mouse melanoma. Human gene therapy. 2010 Dec 2;22(3):325-35.