Sunlight Slows Weight Gain And Diabetes

As reported by ScienceDaily (10/14) - Sunshine May Slow Weight Gain, Diabetes Onset, Study Suggests

Exposure to moderate amounts of sunshine may slow the development of obesity and diabetes, a study suggests. Scientists who looked at the effect of sunlight on mice say further research will be needed to confirm whether it has the same effect on people. The researchers showed that shining UV light at overfed mice slowed their weight gain. The mice displayed fewer of the warning signs linked to diabetes, such as abnormal glucose levels and resistance to insulin.

The beneficial effects of UV treatment were linked to a compound called nitric oxide, which is released by the skin after exposure to sunlight. Applying a cream containing nitric oxide to the skin of the overfed mice had the same effect of curbing weight gain as exposure to UV light, the team found.

Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sunlight and often lauded for its health benefits -- did not play a role, the study found. The team says the new findings add to the growing body of evidence that supports the health benefits of moderate exposure to the sun's rays. Previous studies in people have shown that nitric oxide can lower blood pressure after exposure to UV lamps. The results should be interpreted cautiously, the researchers say, as mice are nocturnal animals covered in fur and not usually exposed to much sunlight. Studies are needed to confirm whether sunshine exposure has the same effect on weight gain and risk of diabetes in people.

Researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, Western Australia, led the study in collaboration with the Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton. Dr Shelley Gorman, of the Telethon Kids Institute and lead author of the study, said: "Our findings are important as they suggest that casual skin exposure to sunlight, together with plenty of exercise and a healthy diet, may help prevent the development of obesity in children." "These observations further indicate that the amounts of nitric oxide released from the skin may have beneficial effects not only on heart and blood vessels but also on the way our body regulates metabolism," Dr Martin Feelisch, Professor of Experimental Medicine and Integrative Biology at the University of Southampton, added.

Dr Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh, said: "We know from epidemiology studies that sun-seekers live longer than those who spend their lives in the shade. Studies such as this one are helping us to understand how the sun can be good for us. We need to remember that skin cancer is not the only disease that can kill us and should perhaps balance our advice on sun exposure."

The research is published in the journal Diabetes.

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Edinburgh

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Mixed Messages On Sun Exposure

Vitamin D is a steroid vitamin, a group of fat-soluble prohormones, which encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous. People who are exposed to normal quantities of sunlight do not need vitamin D supplements because sunlight promotes sufficient vitamin D synthesis in the skin.

For decades we have been told to stay out of the sun, to wear hats and cover ourselves with sun block to protect against skin cancer and also significantly reducing our levels of vitamin D. Add to that a growingly sedentary lifestyle where we and our children spend more time indoors either watching TV or in front of a computer monitor, and it is not surprising that millions of people have excessively low levels of vitamin D in our system.

Then we are told that sunlight can rapidly make up for any vitamin D shortfall, while at the same time the American Academy of Dermatology continues to recommend that the public obtain vitamin D from nutritional sources and dietary supplements, and not from unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation because of the skin cancer risk, and we despair.

Telling people to get their vitamin D from just food and supplements obviously does not work. People have been told that for the last twenty years and vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency has increased significantly. It is estimated that 50% of American elderly women consume far less vitamin D in their diet than recommended. Consequently, vitamin D deficiency is a serious problem among the elderly in the USA.

It is understandable why a dermatologist, who is in direct contact with skin cancer patients, advises people to stay out of the sun. However, millions of people are and will develop other very serious diseases because their vitamin D levels are too low. Skin cancer is one factor, but there are many other factors.

• Why is the current policy of telling people to get just their vitamin D from nutritional sources not working?

• Is the current vitamin D problem greater than the skin cancer problem?

• Is it possible to estimate what the impact of recommending 15 minutes twice a week of sun exposure would be on skin cancer numbers, and the health benefits from a resulting lower incidence of vitamin D deficiency in the population?

Some health authorities are starting to change their recommendations. Here is a quote from the Cancer Council, Australia (2009): "Sun exposure is the cause of around 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 95% of melanomas in Australia. However, exposure to small amounts of sunlight is also essential to good health. A balance is required between avoiding an increase in the risk of skin cancer by excessive sun exposure and achieving enough exposure to maintain adequate vitamin D levels."

Info from Medical News Today 8/09

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