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Health Corner: Bask in the sun, but not too long

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

Recently, we wrote about the dangers of skin cancer for people who get too much sun. A reader responded by defending the role of sunlight as an asset in helping ward off various illnesses.

A flurry of recent medical literature supports this view. In a new book, Evolution Rx, William Meller, M.D., writes, “Sunlight is life.” He urges us to bask in the sun—in moderation—so that our bodies can naturally generate vitamin D and benefit from more positive emotions.

In a Los Angeles Times interview, Meller asserts, “The fear of skin cancer is vastly overblown.” He states that melanoma is “directly related to genetics and not how much sun exposure we get.”

He urges people to get about 15 minutes of sun, three times a week. Regular but limited exposure to sunlight enables vitamin D to regulate the body’s use of calcium. That leads to stronger bones, which in turn combats osteoporosis.

Meller warns that older, white women are particularly at risk because they zealously avoid sunlight for fear of aging faster. But that can contribute to the onset of bone loss.

Reverse the trend of gradual bone loss

What makes vitamin D deficiency tricky is that symptoms do not surface immediately. More commonly, a slow deterioration sets in.

You are symptom-free for the first five years that your body gets insufficient calcium. A body scan might detect problems, but you wouldn’t notice any health ailments. After many years, however, the incidence of broken or fractured bones may suddenly increase.

Incidentally, these health risks gained a critical mass when researchers studied Afghan women living under the Taliban. Because they covered all of their skin whenever they went outside, they eventually faced an epidemic of premature bone loss.

 

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