Is avoiding the sun really beneficial to our health? A recent article published in the Journal of Internal Medicine examined sun exposure and mortality rates. This study followed nearly 30,000 Swedish women over 20 years. Surprisingly, all-cause mortality rates were twice as high in those women who avoided sun exposure as opposed to those who had the highest exposure. The researchers argue that women who avoided sunshine could have lower vitamin D levels which put them at greater risk for disease. However, participants did not have their vitamin D levels assessed in this study. The authors conclude that avoidance of sun is potentially harmful to our overall health.
The results of this research study call into question the practice of avoiding the sun and wearing sunscreen at all times. There is likely an optimal sun exposure amount that contributes to our longevity and overall health. Our primary source of vitamin D is through skin exposure to sunshine. Unfortunately, this study did not assess vitamin D levels in its participants. Many studies have linked low vitamin D levels with increased risk of cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cardiovascular disease. We believe that optimum vitamin D levels help prevent chronic disease and thus reduce all-cause mortality rates. You can achieve optimal levels through moderate sun exposure or vitamin D supplementation. However, excessive sunbathing especially that results in sunburn should be avoided. In northern regions vitamin D supplementation maybe necessary in the cooler months (Oct to May) as low solar intensity makes it challenging for our body to produce sufficient vitamin D. Most experts agree that 1000-2000 IU is a safe and effective daily dose of vitamin D. Always check with your integrative health provider before starting any supplements. Our health consultants are available to help you develop a healthy living plan.
Original research study “Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort” can be found at Journal of Internal Medicine.