For years we have been told to cover up in the sun to cut the risk of getting skin cancer. But now it seems that a little bit of sunshine on your body is actually good for you.
Studies have shown that a sensible amount of sun reduces your risk of several cancers and other serious health conditions. And it’s all thanks to vitamin D, which is made by our bodies through the action of the sun’s UVB rays on our skin.
Sunshine boosts levels of serotonin – the body’s natural happy hormone. That’s why we tend to feel happier and more energetic when the sun shines.
A study in the British Medical Journal showed that people in the UK are more likely to die of heart disease in winter than in summer, which is believed to be because of low levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D may help to prevent the onset of diabetes. A study in Finland found children given a vitamin D supplement for several years had an 80 per cent reduced risk of developing Type I diabetes as young adults
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – or the winter blues – is a depression specifically caused by lack of sunlight. Lightboxes can be used to treat it, although increased exposure to natural sunlight is more beneficial.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system, leading to tremors and even paralysis. The cause is not known but scientists have noted that exposure to sunlight in childhood appears to dramatically reduce the risk of developing this disease in later life.
The sun could even help to keep your teeth strong. A dental study found the prevalence of cavities was greater in children from Scotland, the North-West, Wales and Merseyside – areas with less than average sunshine.
Being out in the sun helps to warm the body’s muscles and eases stiffness, reducing the pain caused by inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Although over exposure to the sun increases your risk of skin cancer, vitamin D provided by sunlight can actually help to significantly reduce your risk of other types of cancer.
The sun reduces levels of the hormone melatonin which suppresses fertility, so it is more likely you’ll conceive in summer.
Sunlight also boosts testosterone levels in men, which makes summer the perfect time for baby-making.
Melatonin also regulates sleep, so having lower levels of this hormone in your body gives you more get up and go. This is why you need less sleep in summer but still feel livelier. Plus, being woken by natural light rather than an alarm clock helps you feel more positive.
People with Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel disorders (IBD) generally have low levels of vitamin D in their bodies, according to several studies. Sunlight is the best way to boost vitamin D in these cases.
Exposure to the sun can help to heal such skin conditions as psoriasis, acne and eczema. Regular controlled sun exposure is often prescribed for sufferers.
Sunlight encourages the production of white blood cells, which help to boost your immune system and fight infection.
Higher levels of serotonin in our bodies not only makes you feel happy but it also suppresses the appetite, so you’ll eat less in warmer weather.