Sunlight Is Necessary On Every Level Of Life
Although most of the health-promoting benefits of sun exposure are thought to occur through vitamin D photosynthesis, there are other health benefits that have gone largely overlooked in the debate over how much sun is needed for good health.
The scientific discoveries of Dr. John Ott, the father of photobiology (the study of the effects of light on living organisms), confirmed that humans require the full-spectrum of light exposure to thrive similar to the process of photosynthesis; a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy. A pioneer in natural light research, Dr. Ott discovered the remarkable effects specific wavelengths of light have on all living things. In his book, Light, Radiation and You: How to Stay Healthy, he concluded that full-spectrum sunlight is necessary on every level of life, all the way down to our cell’s ability to properly reproduce.
Not only do we need sufficient sunlight externally on our skin, but also internally through our eyes. Human eyes evolved under full-spectrum sunlight. Eyes are the only organs in the body constituted to receive light. They feed on light. The retina is covered with millions of photoreceptor cells (light sensitive cells) called rods and cones that depend on stimulation by light. Without light stimulation they perish and vision dims. In an interview published in 1991, he noted: “There are neurochemical channels from the retina to the pineal and pituitary glands, the master glands of the whole endocrine system that control the production and release of hormones. This regulates your body chemistry and its growth, all organs of your body, including your brain, and how they function”. In other words, sunlight entering through the eyes regulates brain chemistry and glands that produce crucial hormones like melatonin, serotonin, insulin, cortisol and dopamine, all affecting our moods, daily rhythms and sleep cycles.
Mal-Illumination… The Silent Epidemic
“Mal-illumination”, a term coined by Ott, is an environmental condition characterized by the absence of full-spectrum light resulting in dire health consequences. Mal-illumination is a silent epidemic of sunlight starvation impacting the majority of the world today. It is a condition found primarily in industrialized countries when people’s lifestyles force them to be indoors for the majority of the day. Compounding the problem, when people are outside, many use sunscreens, which, if applied as directed, can significantly prevent the production of vitamin D in the skin. As a result, many of us experience decreasing vitamin D levels and the risk of serious health problems.
A landmark study published in November, 2016, in the journal Dermato-Endocrinology has world-renowned researchers calling insufficient sun exposure an emerging health problem in the United States. In their paper, The Risks and Benefits of Sun Exposure 2016, the authors reference major papers in the past five years in concluding that Americans are not getting enough sun exposure and that public health advice needs to be retooled to embrace moderate sun while focusing on sunburn prevention. “The message of sun avoidance advocated by our government, and some within the medical community, should be changed immediately to a recommendation of regular non-burning sun exposure for most Americans,” said lead author Dr. David Hoel, a member of the National Academy of Medicine and Distinguished University Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, “The sun is essential for life and should be diligently pursued in moderation, not avoided.”
The authors are clear: sunscreen should be used as a tool to prevent sunburn, but the public should know that over-use of the product may have unintended consequences. They are calling for sunscreen labels to contain a statement explaining that sunscreen blocks vitamin D production in the skin. Labeling should also acknowledge that sunscreens have not been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of melanoma.