Posted on Feb 22, 2019, 8 p.m.
The secret to increased longevity may be found in the sun. Despite being demonized in past decades as being the culprit behind skin cancer, sun exposure is a bit of a double edge sword as getting the right amount is associated with healthy aging and reduced risk of certain cancers.
Vitamin D found in the sun’s rays is what brings about these benefits, getting it out of a bottle does not have the same effect as getting it directly from sunshine. Without vitamin D from sunlight disease has been shown to increase more than 1000%. Maintaining a healthy diet is critical to health, even those who eat proper have a hard time getting enough vitamins/minerals from food intake to make a difference today, particularly if they follow vegan diets.
Small increase of natural vitamin D from the sun have been associated with longer telomeres in middle aged adults. Telomeres are like caps on the ends of chromosomes in cells to ensure they don’t fuse together or rearrange themselves, however telomeres shorten with age and the process can be sped up with factors such as poor diet, being overweight, and sedentary lifestyles which are all correlated with inflammation.
Following analysis of data from more than 1,500 adults ages 20+, after making adjustments for BMI, gender, ethnicity, and other cofounders the researchers concluded that those who got higher levels of vitamin D from the sun had longer telomeres.
European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition published a study supporting their findings showing that even small increased in natural vitamin D can add years to one’s life. 59% of people are estimated to have vitamin D deficiency; conditions found to respond to vitamin D include cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease which are some of the most troubling illnesses facing the world. Doubling an individual’s circulating level of vitamin was found to lower mortality rates of these disease by 20%, according to Dr. W.B. Grant of the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center.
How much sun exposure a person needs to get the right amount of vitamin D varies and depends on a number of factors such as skin tone, pollution levels in the area, geographic location, and time of year. In general 5-10 minutes of sunlight 2-3 times each week, exposing 6-10% of the body should be enough, however darker skin tones will need more, according to Dr. Michael Holick. Sunscreen with 8 SPF can still reduce the body’s ability to make vitamin D by upwards of 95%, it is important to sit outside in the sun for 5-10 minutes before going back inside to apply.
For whatever reason should sunlight exposure be limited you can try to increase levels via food intake which can be difficult. Foods such as oily salmon and trout can provide up to 97% of daily recommended intake in just 3 ounces. Mushrooms, maitake specifically carry 131% in just one mushroom; and one tablespoon of cod liver oil carries 233% of the RDI.
Keeping it simple solutions tend to be the best ones, simply getting some sunlight doesn’t cost anything and being outdoors can carry other benefits towards well being such as stress relief and if you’re walking exercise.
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