We often hear people telling us how harmful the sun’s rays are to our skin. Most of the health messages circulating online have mainly focused on the hazards of too much sun exposure neglecting the best-known benefit of sunlight: its ability to boost the body’s vitamin D supply.1
While it’s true that too much exposure to sunlight can cause premature aging, wrinkles, and skin cancer (in worse cases), researchers suggest that small doses can actually do good to you and your body. Here are some benefits of sunlight to your health.
5 Health Benefits of Sunlight
- Stimulates blood circulation and treats diseases like eczema, psoriasis, and jaundice
Contrary to what most people believe, exposure to sunlight can actually help heal certain skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, acne, fungal infections, and jaundice.2 This is according to the report published by the World Health Organization relating to the Known Health Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation.
- Regulates calcium and phosphates in the body (Vitamin D)
To those living near the equator, like the Philippines, UV levels are usually higher; therefore, it is best to stay outdoors for a short period of time. UV radiation is important to the body as this stimulates the production of Vitamin D, which helps increase calcium and phosphorus (critical in skeletal development, immune function, and blood cell formation).2
While Vitamin D deficiency is unlikely, sometimes this occurs to people who have very limited sun exposure (most that don’t live in the tropics or those with cystic fibrosis).3 As Vitamin D is essential for optimal mineralization of bone and other comorbidities, many countries have introduced supplements into their common food (like cereals, milk, and flour).
- Boosts mood and addresses depression
Aside from boosting your mood for the day, a sunny day can actually increase the natural anti-depressant of the brain. The study on serotonin, or the hormone that is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused4, has greatly gained the interest of modern science.
A number of researches have examined the relationship of Vitamin D to seasonal affective disorder (commonly known as SAD).5 This is a form of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year, usually during winter. This affects the mood, sleep, appetite, as well as energy levels of people living in countries experiencing this kind of season. SAD is most common among women and young people living in at least 30 degrees latitude north or south.6
- Helps keep weight off.
Studies have shown an interesting relationship on how light exposure can help influence weight regulation. Adults who tend to wake up early and savor the morning heat are more likely to have a lower body mass index.7
Another factor that could also affect this is that most people who tend to wake up early are able to get enough sleep. It is to note that sleep deprivation is highly associated with an increase in food consumption and appetite.8
- Increase life expectancy
Who would have thought that one of the secrets to a long-lived life could be the sun? In a study conducted among 30,000 women in Sweden, it was found out that those who spent more time in the sun lived up to two years longer than those who got less sun!9 This is associated with Vitamin D levels of those who avoid sun exposure. Vitamin D deficiency is often associated with cardiovascular disease mortality and somehow linked to more aggressive melanomas with shorter survival rates.
Sure, getting a dose of Vitamin D daily from the sun can have a lot of positive effects on the body. However, make sure as well to not overexpose yourself. Partnered with a healthy meal and fitness routine, you’ll certainly enjoy the benefits of staying under the sun on your body.
1 Mead MN. Benefits of sunlight: a bright spot for human health. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr;116(4):A160-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.116-a160. Erratum in: Environ Health Perspect. 2008 May;116(5):A197. PMID: 18414615; PMCID: PMC2290997.
2 Radiation: The known health effects of ultraviolet radiation. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/radiation-the-known-health-effects-of-ultraviolet-radiation
3 Chesdachai S, Tangpricha V. Treatment of vitamin D deficiency in cystic fibrosis. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2016 Nov; 164:36-39. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2015.09.013. Epub 2015 Sep 10. PMID: 26365559; PMCID: PMC4786457.
4 David DJ, Gardier AM. Les bases de pharmacologie fondamentale du système sérotoninergique : application à la réponse antidépressive [The pharmacological basis of the serotonin system: Application to antidepressant response]. Encephale. 2016 Jun;42(3):255-63. French. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2016.03.012. Epub 2016 Apr 23. PMID: 27112704.
5 Seasonal Affective Disorder. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad.htm#
6 Penckofer S, Kouba J, Byrn M, Estwing Ferrans C. Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine? Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun;31(6):385-93. doi: 10.3109/01612840903437657. PMID: 20450340; PMCID: PMC2908269.
7 Kathryn J. Reid, Giovanni Santostasi, Kelly G. Baron, John Wilson, Joseph Kang, Phyllis C. Zee. Timing and Intensity of Light Correlate with Body Weight in Adults.
8 Benedict C, Brooks SJ, O’Daly OG, Almèn MS, Morell A, Åberg K, Gingnell M, Schultes B, Hallschmid M, Broman JE, Larsson EM, Schiöth HB. Acute sleep deprivation enhances the brain’s response to hedonic food stimuli: an fMRI study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Mar;97(3):E443-7. doi: 10.1210/jc.2011-2759. Epub 2012 Jan 18. PMID: 22259064.
9 P. G. Lindqvist, E. Epstein, M. Landin-Olsson, C. Ingvar, K. Nielsen, M. Stenbeck, H. Olsson. Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. https://doi.org/10.1111/joim.12251