We always feel the need to begin any pro-sunshine article with the caveat that we do know that too much sun can lead to skin cancer. And we also feel that complete avoidance of the sun is a really bad idea, not just for the sake of preventing vitamin D deficiency, but because sunlight has some really great benefits for us. In other words, having sunshine in our lives should not be an all-or-nothing, either/or choice. We need to keep digging into the research to strike a balance between receiving the many benefits of sunshine while avoiding skin cancer as well. We already noted that sunshine is linked to reducing the risk for or death from some forms of cancer, and here we’d like to summarize some other great benefits of sunshine as identified by Sayer Ji:
Analgesic Properties. Did you know that sunshine lessens pain? Patients in a hospital were studied where there was a brighter side of the hospital, resulting in a group of patients who had 46% higher-intensity exposure to sunshine. As a group they took 22% less pain meds, resulting in a 21% reduction in pain medication costs. They also felt less stressed.
Fat Burning. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology in 2011 published a study showing that UV light on human skin increases subcutaneous metabolism of fat. Note that subcutaneous fat is not a risk factor for heart disease like visceral fat is, but we’ll soon be reporting on vitamin D and obesity, so stay tuned for that.
Improved Evening Alertness. Behavioral Neuroscience published a study in 2012 discovered that people were far more alert in the early evening if they had been outside in the sun for six hours. When they were exposed to only artificial light, they were sleepier and had lower cognitive task performance. The obvious application here is people sitting in offices all day with only artificial light.
Metabolic Energy? We’ve always assumed that humans and animals, unlike plants, do not directly make use of sunlight energy directly. But a study in 2008 called that assumption into question. Melanin (skin pigment) serves all kinds of functions in all kinds of animals, including humans. But melanin also converts both gamma and ultraviolet radiation into metabolic energy in living systems. The jury is still out on this one in terms of whether or not this is really happening in humans, but it makes for fascinating reading, and exciting possibilities!
Sources for Further Reading: