Most of us thank sunlight in terms of natural healing for one thing: the sunshine vitamin – vitamin D. But cavity- and cancer-preventing vitamin D isn’t the only reason to spend time in the sun. Here are 5 benefits of sunlight you probably never knew about.
1. Benefits of Sunlight – Sunlight Helps Kill Pain
In a 2005 study, patients staying on the well-lit side of their hospital unit, thereby receiving about 46 percent greater sunlight exposure, experienced less perceived stress, took 22 percent less analgesic medication hourly, and incurred 21 percent less pain medication cost. Whether they were exposed to sunlight through glass or with windows open is not stated in the study. Natural brightness of sunshine may very well have had these effects on the patients, but keep in mind that some aspects of sunlight, like the ignition of vitamin D production, doesn’t happen through glass.
2. It Can Help You Lose Weight
Sunlight affects our metabolism to the point of helping to burn subcutaneous fat, according to a study published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Vitamin D and weight loss are closely tied, with the vitamin being regularly inversely correlated with visceral fat and obesity. One study published in Anticancer Research found that the greater the levels of vitamin D among Hispanics and African Americans, the lower their adiposity, including abdominal obesity.
Want to burn fat? Spend between 10 and 30 minutes in the sunlight, depending on your skin pigment, in the two hours on either side of noon without sunscreen daily in the summer. Winter months will require longer periods in the sun, food rich in vitamin D, or even moderate supplementation.
3. Sunlight Via Solar Cycles May Determine Lifespan
Researchers of a study published in Medical Hypothesis say:
“Persons conceived and likely born during the peaks (MAX approximately 3 years) of approximately 11-year solar cycles lived an average 1.7 years less than those conceived and likely born during non-peaks (MIN approximately 8 years). Increased energy at solar MAX, albeit relatively a small 0.1 percent increase from MIN, apparently modifies the human genome/epigenome and engenders changes that predispose to various diseases, thereby shortening lifespan.”
The researchers believe that this sun-derived variation in the genome may be intended to help us adapt to a changing environment.
4. Sunlight Makes You More Alert at Night
Subjects felt more alert in the evening after 6 hours of daylight exposure compared to those who, in the same study, were only exposed to artificial light. The latter group became sleepier in the evening. For those of us working late into the night (or just trying to stay awake through a movie), spending more time in the sun may help.
5. Plants Aren’t the Only Ones to Convert Sunlight to Energy
Melanin is a paradoxical thing: it adds pigment to our hair and skin and reduces damage to DNA, but an excess of it can turn malignant (melanoma). Researchers who published their seemingly outlandish hypothesis in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine say that the melanin in our skin may act as solar panels and ingest energy from the sun, just like plants, by converting gamma and ultraviolent radiation into metabolic energy.
“Animal inability to utilize light energy directly has been traditionally assumed,” write co-authors Goodman and Bercovich. They cite the avian pectin, a strange organ that “may help cope with energy and nutrient needs under extreme conditions, by a marginal but critical, melanin-initiated conversion of light to metabolic energy, coupled to local metabolite recycling. … Melanin and the pectin may have unexpected lessons also for human physiology and medicine.”