Sun Exposure and Your Health

We’ve all been told that it’s a good idea to get a little sunshine each day. Reasons include the fact that this helps generate a bit of vitamin D, and that we basically just feel better when we’re exposed to this component of nature!

But new research may strengthen the sunshine recommendation. A new study, Moderate UV Exposure Enhances Learning and Memory by Promoting a Novel Glutamate Biosynthetic Pathway in the Brain, appeared in the journal Cell demonstrates how UV light exposure actually enhances memory function in laboratory animals. These researchers showed that when laboratory rats were exposed to moderate amounts of UV light, a biosynthetic pathway was activated that caused increased production of the neurotransmitter glutamate in various brain regions. Further, these animals were then shown to have improvement in specific forms of memory that involve both motor activity as well as object recognition.

The researchers stated:

Although overexposure to UV radiation may cause several adverse health effects, moderate UV exposure greatly benefits physical and mental health at multiple levels. Moderate UV-light exposure affects behaviors related to the CNS, such as emotion, learning, and memory.

Our ancestors spent a lot of time exposed to UV light, and we are just beginning to unravel more of the story as to why this was, and is, healthful.

Skin cancers, including melanoma, and enhanced skin aging do seem to be related to UV light exposure, and that’s clearly the other side of the coin. So, like so many other considerations, this is a recommendation grounded in balance. So I would consider avoiding sun exposure from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M., and then limit it to around 15 minutes in total each day.

Night Time Light Exposure – Not a Bright Idea

We live in a very light polluted world in comparison to that of our very recent ancestors. Estimates now indicate that close to 99% of both Americans and Europeans are exposed to “light pollution.” Not only are we excessively exposed to light in modern times, but the type of light accounting for this exposure is changing rapidly. As we move away from incandescent lights in favor of light emitting diode (LED) technology, we are seeing an ever-increasing exposure to a particular part of the light spectrum – blue light, that has been associated with some worrisome effects in terms of human health.

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