Some of our readers have requested for more information on the benefits of sun exposure outside of vitamin D production. Fortunately, a review asking this very question was published in the last issue of Dermato Endocrinology by Professors Asta Juzeniene and Johan Moan.
Here is what we know, sometimes incompletely, about the effects of sun exposure on the human body:
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1. Enhances mood and energy. Generally, a little bit of sun exposure is associated with better mood, while tanners commonly report feeling more relaxed than non-tanners. One study demonstrated that, in addition to getting the boost of vitamin D, ?-endorphins increase after sun exposure, which adds further explanation to the sun/mood association. Three studies found no increase in ?-endorphin production after sun exposure, but the authors speculate that the anxiety from a blood draw to check on endorphins would negatively affect endorphin levels.
2. Treats skin diseases. These diseases include treatment of lupus vulgaris, psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis and localized scleroderma. Why phototherapy works in the treatment of these diseases is not completely understood (usually broadband UVB or narrow-band UVB, but sometimes UVA also), researchers do know of some mechanisms during phototherapy. UV radiation reduces the rate of cell proliferation in the skin, activation and proliferation of melanocytes, reduction of T-lymphocytes, and reduction of Langerhans and mast cells.
3. Relieves pain in fibromyalgia. Sunbathing seems to have potential to reduce pain in patients with fibromyalgia compared to no exposure. The mechanism is unknown.
4. Skin barrier functions. Skin exposed to UVB and UVA is more resistant to primary irritants. Once again, the mechanism is unknown.
5. Induces nitric oxide. UVA exposure induces nitric oxide (NO*) production. It has been suggested that NO* protects the skin for 20-30 minutes from UV damage, offers cardiovascular protection, helps wounds and have some anti-tumor activity.
Brant Cebulla is the Development Director for the Vitamin D Council. He believes Paleo dieting, high intensity fitness and sun exposure are the future in nutrition.
The Vitamin D Council is a non-profit organization, spreading awareness and reliable information on vitamin D and vitamin D deficiency.