More Than A Vitamin
A growing body of research clearly shows that vitamin D benefits the entire body and it’s absolute necessity for good health and disease prevention. However, despite vitamin D’s role in keeping your body ticking along like a well-oiled clock, you are likely deficient in the “sunshine vitamin” — because the majority of people are.
Our vitamin D levels have dropped as a result of being scared sunless by those spreading misinformation that the sun causes melanoma, a myth that survives by mass promotion but really lacks any factual basis. It has been repeated so many times that most people believe it.
Vitamin D affects your biological function by influencing nearly 3,000 of your genes through vitamin D receptors. In fact, vitamin D receptors are found throughout your body, which should come as no surprise, given we humans evolved in the sun.
Recent research has also revealed yet another benefit of sun exposure beyond the protective benefits of vitamin D production, namely the production of nitric oxide — a compound that lowers your blood pressure.
According to the researchers, the heart-health benefits from this may outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer. Your vitamin D level varies not only with time of day, season, and geographic location, but also with your genetics.
For example, if you have dark skin, you may need up to 10 times more sun exposure to maintain an optimal vitamin D level as a person with pale skin. Redheads have to be particularly careful, as they appear to be genetically predisposed to developing melanoma, regardless of whether or not they spend time in the sun.
Tens Of Thousands Of Health Studies Attest To The Vitamin D Benefits
Sunshine’s gifts extend well beyond vitamin D production. As discussed in the featured article by Sayer Ji, five of the many noteworthy properties of sunlight include:
- Pain-killing (analgesic) properties
- Increased subcutaneous fat metabolism
- Regulation of human lifespan (solar cycles appear to be able to directly affect the human genome, thereby influencing lifespan)
- Daytime sun exposure improves evening alertness
- Conversion to metabolic energy (i.e. we may “ingest” energy directly from the sun, like plants do)
When it comes to vitamin D production, the benefits are simply immeasurable. In fact, correcting a vitamin D deficiency may cut your risk of dying in half, according to an analysis of more than 10,000 individuals.
According to a January 2013 press release by Orthomolecular Medicine, 3,600 medical papers with vitamin D in the title or abstract were published in 2012 alone, bringing the grand total to 33,800. Research to date shows vitamin D has far reaching benefits to your physical and mental health, with the following chart representing only the tip of the sunbeam.
|Pregnancy outcomes (reduced risk of Cesarean section and pre-eclampsia)||Autism|
|Childhood language impairment||Cardiovascular disease|
|Type 1 diabetes||Alzheimer’s disease|
|Type 2 diabetes||Bacterial and viral infections|
|Falls and bone fractures||16 different types of cancer|
Another Way Sun Exposure Protects Your Heart Health
UVB exposure also improves your mood and energy level, helps regulate melatonin, and, as mentioned earlier, increases nitric oxide production, which benefits your cardiovascular system. With regards to the latter, Medical News Today report:
Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology, and colleagues, say the effect is such that overall, sun exposure could improve health and even prolong life, because the benefits of reducing blood pressure, cutting heart attacks and strokes, far outweigh the risk of getting skin cancer.
Weller and colleagues found that the body’s production of nitric oxide is separate from production of vitamin D … Human skin contains large stores of nitrite (NO2) and nitrate (NO3). The researchers note that while nitrate is ‘biologically inert,’ the action of sunlight can reduce it to active nitrite and nitric oxide (NO). They found that circulatory nitrate fell and nitrite rose during UV and heat exposure, but not during exposure to heat only. There was no difference in vitamin D levels.
Weller says in a statement that: ‘We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer. The work we have done provides a mechanism that might account for this, and also explains why dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight … If this confirms that sunlight reduces the death rate from all causes, we will need to reconsider our advice on sun exposure.’
Skin Cancer, In Brief
Before we discuss melanoma, you need a basic understanding of the three most common types of skin cancer, each named for the type of cells affected:
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC): Begins in the basal cell layer of the skin, typically on the face; the most common form of skin cancer and the most common type of cancer in humans; least likely skin cancer to spread.
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): Begins in the squamous cells, typically on the face, neck, ears, lips, and backs of hands; tends to grow and spread a bit more than BCC.
- Melanoma: Begins in the melanocytes (the cells that produce the pigment melanin, responsible for your tan); melanin protects the deeper layers of your skin from excess radiation. Melanoma is more likely than other types of skin cancer to spread to other parts of your body and causes more deaths than any other type of skin cancer.
Don’t Fall For The Melanoma Myth
If you believe the lure of the sun is equivalent to the siren’s call for melanoma, you’ll be relieved to learn melanoma is not actually caused by sun exposure, unlike the other two types of skin cancer, BCC and SCC. Although the reported number of new cases of melanoma in the U.S. has been reportedly increasing for more than 30 years, a landmark study in the British Journal of Dermatology suggests this apparent increase is a result of non-cancerous lesions being misclassified as “stage 1 melanoma.” In other words, people are being diagnosed with melanoma even when they have only a minimal, non-cancerous lesion, and these diagnoses are significantly skewing cancer statistics. The sun is nothing more than a scapegoat in this phenomenon of “increased melanoma.”
But this misdiagnosis is doing more than just skewing statistics — it’s causing a mountain of unnecessary melanoma surgeries. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 90 percent of melanoma excisions end up NOT being melanoma at all. But if the sun doesn’t cause melanoma, then what does?
The REAL Role Of The Sun In Melanoma
As with all serious diseases, there are multiple interacting factors that cause your immune system to go awry, such as nutrition, environmental toxins, stress, inadequate sleep, etc. But for melanoma, the sun does appear to have a significant role — melanoma may signify too little of it!
Studies show melanoma mortality actually decreases after UV exposure. Additionally, melanoma lesions do not predominate sun-exposed skin, which is why sunscreens have proven ineffective in preventing it. Exposure to sunlight, particularly UVB, is protective against melanoma — or rather, the vitamin D your body produces in response to UVB radiation is protective. The following passage comes from The Lancet:
Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.
And this from the British Medical Journal:
There is solid descriptive, quantitative, and mechanistic proof that ultraviolet rays cause the main skin cancers (basal and squamous). They develop in pale, sun exposed skin, are related to degree of exposure and latitude, are fewer with avoidance and protection, are readily produced experimentally, and are the overwhelmingly predominant tumor in xeroderma pigmentosum, where DNA repair of ultraviolet light damage is impaired. None of these is found with melanoma.
The bottom line is, by avoiding the sun, your risk for vitamin D deficiency skyrockets, which increases your odds of developing melanoma and a multitude of other diseases. The risks associated with insufficient vitamin D are far greater than those posed by basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas, which are fairly benign by comparison, as you’ll see by reading on.
Vitamin D Benefits: Could Prevent 90 Percent Of Breast Cancers
How Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help Optimize Your Health
Additionally, a robust and growing body of research clearly shows that the benefits of vitamin D are extensive. It is absolutely critical for good health and disease prevention. Vitamin D affects your DNA through vitamin D receptors (VDRs), which bind to specific locations of the human genome. Scientists have identified nearly 3,000 genes that are influenced by vitamin D levels, and vitamin D receptors have been found throughout the human body.
Is it any wonder then that no matter what disease or condition is investigated, vitamin D appears to play a crucial role? This is why I am so excited about the D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth. It is showing how you can take action today on known science with a consensus of experts without waiting for institutional lethargy. It has shown how by combining the science of measurement (of vitamin D levels) with the personal choice of taking action and, the value of education about individual measures that one can truly be in charge of their own health.
In order to spread this health movement to more communities, the project needs your involvement. This is an ongoing campaign during the month of February, and will become an annual event.
To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.)
As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year program, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $65 fee every 6 months for your sponsorship of the project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you “it’s time for your next test and health survey.”