Another huge benefit of sunshine exposure: Nitric oxide production boosts cardiovascular health
-by L.J. Devon
As sunlight shines through the sheets of rain, we stare in awe at the arcing rainbow of colors appearing
across the sky. Perhaps this beautiful geometry and spectrum of colors is an indication of an eclectic palette of medicines existing in the sun's rays. For a moment, as the rainbow comes into view,
we catch a glimpse of the colors. Maybe these streaming colors represent powers we cannot see – a variety of natural medicines all emanating from the
Scientists have isolated one of those powers – vitamin D – and have documented some of the various immune system boosting benefits obtained as vitamin D is utilized within the human body. Now researchers are finding various other benefits from sunlight that have nothing to do with vitamin D; apparently sunlight communicates with the human body in more ways than one.
Sunlight tells cardiovascular system to produce more nitric oxide, relaxing blood vessels
The most recent discoveries on sunlight point to its ability to improve the human cardiovascular system.
Sunlight tells our bodies to produce more nitric oxide, prompting increased relaxation of blood vessels, promising protection throughout the entire cardiovascular system. This also translates to
increased production of serotonin, leading to better mental health.
In his studies, Dr. Richard Weller from Edinburgh University found that with increased sun exposure, the elderly enjoy lower risk of heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke. Remarkably, the positive cardiovascular effect had nothing to do with vitamin D. Another component within sunlight communicates directly with the body's nitric oxide production, allowing the blood vessels to widen, improving cardiovascular health.
Lack of sun is a worse habit than smoking
In another study, the sunbathing habits of 30,000 Swedish women were followed for 20 years. The Karolinska
Institute analyzed the data and published the results in the Journal of Internal Medicine. The death rate for women who had the least exposure to ultraviolet light was twice the amount compared to
women who sunbathed once a day. The research showed that avoiding the sun is just as bad a habit as smoking.
Sunlight has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body
The science behind sunlight centers on its anti-inflammatory effect when it is utilized in the body. In the
winter months, the body's immune system is more apt to have an inflammatory response to combat infections. In contrast, in the summertime, there is a marked decrease in inflammation that is linked to
sunlight. Cambridge University researchers explain that sunlight communicates with the body to reduce inflammatory response. In the long run this is even more beneficial,
inflammation in itself can lead to disease.
Sunlight helps the body use insulin more effectively
When the spectrum of ultraviolet light was applied to mice on high fat diets at the Universities of
Southampton and Edinburgh, researchers noticed another amazing benefit: Sunlight stopped the development of obesity and the markers for type 2 diabetes. The results had nothing to do with vitamin D, but did confirm that sunlight tells the body to boost
production of nitric oxide. The studies showed that sunlight itself helps the body use insulin more properly, preventing diabetes from setting in.
Sunlight speaks to our genes, altering them in positive ways
Speaking with Good Health, Dr. Weller also described how sunlight improves human genetics, showing once again that genes are not set
in stone. "Last year, Cambridge University scientists showed that the expression of 28 per cent of our entire genetic make-up varies from season to season," he said. "It also appears
that sunlight alters the way that our genes behave."
Dr. Weller says, "There is a correlation between more sun and less disease in a variety of conditions such as multiple sclerosis and atherosclerosis (where arteries are clogged by fatty substances known as atheroma)."
"As well as nitric oxide and gene expression, I think there will be other factors that we have yet to discover," he says.
Some of the most obvious effects of sunlight are its antidepressant effect on the mind. This powerful effect is actually communicated through sensors in the retina. Sunlight's main wavelength enters the retina, regulating melatonin hormones from there, allowing for more positive thought and more restful sleep.
So, as the next rainbow comes into view, let the precision of the arc and each color of that beautiful ribbon of light be a reminder of the various sun medicines communicating with the body, improving our quality of life in many different ways.