Although science has been lacking, my instincts have always told me that sunlight has health benefits well beyond its profoundly important role of providing the body with vitamin D. And now we have some concrete, proof-of-principle data to support my health intuition.
For this evaluation, researchers from the University of Edinburgh monitored the blood pressure of 24 study subjects who sat below UV emitting sun lamps for two 20-minute sessions. In the first session, the study subjects received exposure from both the heat and the UV rays admitted from the lamps. In the second session, the lamp’s UV rays were blocked so the study subject’s skin was just exposed to the heat. After the first session (that included exposure to both the heat and the UV rays) the study subject’s blood pressure dropped significantly for an entire hour. There was no change in blood pressure after the second session of just heat exposure.
The scientist noted that upon the skin’s exposure to the UV rays, nitric oxide is released from our blood vessels. Nitric oxide is the body’s most powerful, endogenous blood pressure-lowering compound. It is also a critical agent for optimal blood vessel function.
One of the leading scientists involved with the study remarked, “The sun’s benefits for health likely far outweigh the risks of skin cancer.” High blood pressure is an epidemic and a leading cause of strokes, heart attacks, and kidney disease. Deaths linked to high blood pressure are estimated to be 60 to 100 times higher than those linked to skin cancer.
I am convinced that regular exposure to the outdoors, including prudent and safe exposure to the sun’s rays, is required for optimal health. Off to take a morning run on the beach!
(International Investigative Dermatology Meeting, May 9, 2013, Edinburgh Scotland)
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