5 Health Benefits we Receive From The Sun
Sunlight is not only absorbed by plants. The human body soaks it in too. How we absorb sunlight and process its energy is widely determined by genetics. That’s right, genes are the key factor in how the human body metabolizes sunlight. For instance, people with pale skin that are easily sunburned are much more likely to get skin cancer if they spend too much time in the sun. As we explore the 5 Health Benefits we Receive From The Sun, this awareness of timing and duration of sun exposure is important to understand and is a critically important factor when it comes to how our bodies metabolize sunlight.
With that in mind, there are a number of scientists, who through research, suggest that the health benefits of a reasonable safe amount of sun exposure may, in fact, outweigh the risks. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, for example, specifically point out that the heart-health benefits of sun exposure far outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer. So now is a good time to take a look at some benefits that can come from sun exposure.
1. Sun exposure lowers blood pressure.
A group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh discovered that the compound known as nitric oxide that helps lower blood pressure is released into the blood vessels as soon as sunlight touches the skin. Incredible right? This finding was important because in the past it was thought that sunlight’s only health benefits to humans were to stimulate the production of vitamin D. Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology, and colleagues, however, found that sun exposure can not only improve health but also lengthen human lifespan. Obviously, the benefits of lower blood pressure include cutting the risk of heart attacks and strokes. These benefits says, Weller “far outweigh the risk of getting skin cancer.”
2. Sun exposure improves bone health.
Most people already know that vitamin D stimulates the absorption of bone-strengthening calcium and phosphorus in the body. As of late there is updated research that also demonstrates a direct correlation between bone density and vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin formed during the process of Vitamin D produces when sunlight hits the skin. It modulates calcium absorption. When you have higher levels of vitamin D3 in your blood, you are at a lower risk of suffering fractures of virtually all types. On the other hand, lower levels of vitamin D3 in the blood are associated with higher rate of all types of bone fractures. This is why sun exposure is vitally important for bone health in older adults.
3. Sun exposure can increase brain function.
Not just for better bone health and regulating vital calcium levels, scientists have now linked vitamin D with a number of functions throughout the body, including the functioning of the brain. A recent study with the oversite of neuroscientist David Llewellyn of the University of Cambridge measured vitamin D levels in more than 1,700 men and women from England, aged 65 or older and found that as vitamin D levels dropped, so did their cognitive function. That’s right, reduced vitamin D levels adversely affected cognitive function. Additional studies have found sunlight could help activate nerve cell growth in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is responsible for the formation, organization, and storage of memories. Just another positive finding of the 5 Health Benefits we Receive From The Sun.
4. Sun exposure can ease mild depression.
Ask anyone who lives in Chicago and they can tell you that sunlight deprivation can cause a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).Shorter days and long and drawn out nights can bring on this condition. SAD is a type of depression that is common in the winter months. It may also affect people who work long hours in office buildings and rarely get outside into the sun. Even a small level of sun exposure can increase levels of naturally occurring antidepressants in the brain. These factors have shown to improve and help relieve this and other forms of mild depression. How does this happen? It’s really quite simple, on sunny days the brain produces more serotonin which plays a critical role in a naturally occurring positive outlook.
5. Sun exposure improves sleep quality.
So we’re at the last on our list of 5 Health Benefits we Receive From The Sun. So how does sun exposure improve sleep quality? It all begins with a simple area in our brains that contains the pineal gland. As sunlight passes through our eyes and makes its way through the optic tract, a signal is sent to the pineal gland in the brain which activates or deactivates the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that makes us drowsy and helps us sleep. Lights on or lights off, your body gets a clear signal that it’s no longer night or no longer day and this helps to modulate your circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycles. When it gets dark outside, your body gets the signal again and you feel tired and drowsy at bedtime. Low levels of melatonin production at night due to overproduction during the day has been linked to poor sleep quality, this can be especially problematic in older adults.