MEN’S HEALTH: Let There Be Light!

mh-article-3.jpgFind out how sunshine can improve men’s health by reducing cancer risks, increasing bone density and strengthening the immune system.

In spite of all the fear-mongering about sunlight and skin cancer, the latest research confirms that getting optimal amounts of sun exposure could well be one of the most crucial actions to improve men’s health overall.

Commonly referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the most bioactive form of the vitamin, produced by the body when skin is exposed to ultraviolet light.

But for those whose climate or lifestyle limits sun exposure, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) can come from supplementation or via the diet.

One role of vitamin D is to maintain a proper calcium/phosphorus balance in the blood (affecting bone density). A lesser known but more important role is to regulate normal cellular growth. For this reason, vitamin D is found to enhance men’s health by improving immune function, and also appears to greatly reduce risks from many types of cancer. Researchers have found that more sunlight exposure (and therefore higher levels of vitamin D3 in the blood), correlates to significantly lower incidence of cancer of the prostate, lungs, colon and skin. Yes, skin! Constant use of sunscreen or avoiding sun exposure altogether may cause far more deaths from a variety of diseases than the few skin cancers caused from sunburn and over-exposure.

The positive anti-inflammatory effects of the vitamin D that skin produces has now also been linked to preventing heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, Parkinsonism, osteoporosis, sixteen different types of cancer, and even multiple sclerosis. Those who grow up in sunny climates and receive lots of sun exposure and natural vitamin D as children never get multiple sclerosis as adults.

The American Cancer Society is revising its guidelines now that a Harvard study suggested that vitamin D may prevent 30 deaths from numerous diseases for every one death from skin cancer caused by too much sun exposure. Men who receive ‘high exposure’ to the sun have half the prostate cancer risk compared with those with ‘low sun exposure.’ While it is still wise to avoid becoming sunburned, getting 15-30 minutes of ‘safe sunshine’ (with no sunscreen) each day is enough to maintain optimal vitamin D levels and gain the preventive health benefits. Avoiding the sun entirely may be among the worst advice for men’s health.

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