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Sunshine is Nature's Disease Fighter

July 03, 2008 | 59,773 views

sunlight, sunMedical researchers are growing increasingly excited about a wonder drug that may significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many other diseases -- sunshine.

A recent study found that men who are deficient in vitamin D, which your body produces in response to sunlight, have more than double the normal risk of suffering a heart attack.

In fact, men with vitamin D levels below 15 nanograms per milliliter had 2.5 times the risk of having a heart attack or dying -- even after controlling for all other possible risk factors such as hypertension, obesity and high lipid levels.

Another study found that low levels of vitamin D increased the risk of diabetes, and yet another linked vitamin D deficiencies to an increased risk of dying from breast cancer.

These findings all join a growing body of evidence indicating that an adequate level of the vitamin, which many people can get from 20 minutes in the sun each day, is crucial to maintaining good health.
 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

If spending some time in the sun each day this summer is not on your list of priorities, I urge you to reconsider. This simple act can drastically reduce your risk of major diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Not to mention that the feel of the warm sun on your skin is one of life’s great pleasures -- and it’s free, so what have you got to lose?

The evidence just keeps pouring in.

It’s no coincidence that northern countries (with less intense sunlight and colder winters) have higher levels of heart disease than sun-filled southern countries, and more heart attacks occur in the winter months, when sunlight is scarce.

This recent study found that low vitamin D levels more than doubled the risk of heart attack and death. That’s a huge jump! Past studies have also found that getting a daily dose of vitamin D boosts your natural anti-inflammatory response, which can help to treat congestive heart failure.

Just how does vitamin D help your heart?

Well, there are a number of mechanisms triggered by vitamin D production that help fight heart disease, including:
  • An increase in your body's natural anti-inflammatory cytokines
  • The suppression of vascular calcification
  • The inhibition of vascular smooth muscle growth
Vitamin D also works by lowering insulin resistance, which is one of the major factors leading to heart disease in the United States.

Using Sunlight for Your Health

Unfortunately, in the United States the sun has been vilified. Many people have been convinced that staying out of the sun is necessary to avoid cancer, when actually the exact opposite is true. Why would anyone in their right mind want to exchange the risk of a few harmless skin cancers with that of serious life-threatening challenges like colon, breast, prostate and colon cancers?

Of course, you always want to avoid getting burned, but generally speaking you can safely spend anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours in the sun every day with beneficial effects. If you have dark-colored skin or live far from the equator, you will need to spend more time in the sun than someone who is light-skinned living close to the equator.

If you are a person who regularly spends time outdoors, without sunblock (sunblock screens out ultraviolet light, which interferes with vitamin D production in your body), then your vitamin D levels may be OK. However, most people spend a lot of time inside and do not get adequate sun exposure on a daily basis.

For this reason, I strongly encourage you to have your vitamin D levels tested. If you are currently facing chronic disease, it’s even more important that you get your levels checked, as vitamin D deficiency could be a factor.

The test is a simple blood test called 25(OH)D, or 25-hydroxyvitamin D. You can request it from just about any doctor, but ideally you will get it from a holistic physician who understands the importance of vitamin D, and can guide you into getting your levels optimized.

What’s the Best Way to Get Vitamin D?

Sun exposure is always the best method of getting vitamin D, but some people do need to take a vitamin D3 supplement to keep their levels up. You should only do this under the care of a knowledgeable physician, however, as you can overdose on vitamin D supplements.

In fact, the only time you don’t need to worry about whether or not you’re getting too much, or too little, vitamin D is when your body makes it naturally from the sun.

There is still massive confusion out there, even among health care professionals, about what’s healthy and what’s not when it comes to sunlight and vitamin D. For instance, certain vitamin D supplements (vitamin D2) are highly inferior to vitamin D3, and should not be taken.

Meanwhile, some doctors will tell you your vitamin D levels are “normal” if they’re over 20 ng/ml. In reality, your vitamin D level should NEVER be below 32 ng/ml and should really be 45-52 ng/ml to be optimal.

My new book, Dark Deception, is coming out shortly and it will help to clear up all of this confusion once and for all.

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