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German organic chemist Adolf Windaus was awarded the 1928 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for research "for the services rendered through his research into the constitution of the sterols and their connection with the vitamins", the first Nobel prize for work in human nutrition. Windaus began his studies in 1901 with the steroid cholesterol since nothing was known about its structure at the time. In 1926, he proved that ultraviolet light (from sunlight or laboratory sources) activates the compound ergosterol and gives vitamin D, which is valuable in preventing the rickets bone disease. He later synthetically prepared vitamin D, discovered histamine, and contributed to the synthesis of vitamin B.


Ultraviolet Light – Introduction  

Sunlight has had a bad rap lately. I remember as a kid, one of three sons, being kicked outside early each day to play in the sun, get my knees scraped, and examine things that smelled funny; these were the good old days when we didn’t know that everything in the world could kill us. My parents never put a sunscreen on any of us. It was considered healthy to play in the sun and get acquainted to new germs. Oh how naďve we were.

Naďve according to the American Academy of Dermatology and those organizations receiving funding from the sunscreen interests, that is.

First off, yes, we have to admit that overdosing in ultraviolet light is damaging to DNA, to the surface of the body, both skin, eyes, and mucus membranes, and the immune system. Studies using artificial UV light for twelve thirty minute exposures have shown that T-cells and NK cells become dysfunctional and suppressed. However, you have to keep in mind that this is an extreme amount of time and that artificial UV light is not the same as natural sunlight that has an assortment of wavelengths including UV light.

Like everything, moderation is the key when it comes to sunlight, but keep in mind that most of the studies showing on the negative effects of sunlight have pretty shaky methodologies with some of them being just pure trash financed by people who want you to buy UV resistant sunglasses and sun screen. Need an example?

A study reported in the American Journal of Ophthalmology in March 1982 used monkeys that were tied down with their eyelids clamped wide open. Then their fully dilated pupils were exposed to beams from a 2,500-watt lamp for 16 minutes. Apparently this caused retinal damage.

This study reminds me of the monkeys that were forced to smoke marijuana for sixteen hours a day and showed signs of being very stoned. Duh.

Some scientists are very silly people, especially those who, above, concluded that sunlight causes retinal damage.

There’s another hypothesis that Johanna Budwig proposed in the sixties concerning how UV light affects the body. She reported that with an increase of polyunsaturated oils and trans fats in our diets came a proportional increase in skin cancer rates; that certain wavelengths of sunlight vibrate at the same frequency as the chemical bonds in unsaturated fatty acids (and partially hydrogenated oils) that can give rise to early mutations; mutations which eventually become cancers.

And why shouldn’t there be a nutritional aspect to the effect of sunlight on our bodies? We are what we eat and what we ate 10,000 to 200 years ago when we spent much more time in the sunlight is not what we eat today. Overlooking any nutritional factor in modern health care is not only a wide spread problem, it sure doesn’t help in finding any solutions.

Here’s a bit of an article from the UK, the Institute of Complementary Medicine Journal:

To judge by the Cancer Research UK’s website, the impression given is that the sun is the overwhelming, direct cause of both types [of cancers]. But growing evidence about factors such as chlorine in water, artificial lighting and diet - the word ‘diet’ or ‘vitamin D’ is not even mentioned on the website - tells a different story. Why, for example, is the incidence of melanoma on the Orkney and Shetland Isles, north of Scotland, 10 times that on Mediterranean islands (Science 1991;254:114-5)? []

The increase of skin cancer incidence cannot be due simply to the sun and decreasing ozone layers.

Contrary to general belief, there is no evidence that reduction in the ozone layer, observed at the poles, has caused any increase in melanomas (Br J Can 1992; 65: 916-21). Even a study of Punta Arenas, the largest South American city close to the Antartic ozone hole, showed no increase in health problems related to depleted ozone. In fact, UV measures were too small to have any noticeable effect (Am J Pub Health 1995;85(4):546-50). []

There are many other factors that have to be considered, and listening to sun screen makers is like asking a surgeon if you need surgery. As Maslow put it, “When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail.” We should add that when you make your living with that hammer, you’ll hammer in the morning, you’ll hammer in the evening, and all over the world, just to make your profit.

Did you know that sunlight used to be a medical therapy?

It’s called Heliotherapy. One of Heliotherapy’s first uses was for tuberculosis. Prior to the use of drug therapy, patients with tuberculosis spent hours each day in the sun. It was thought that the sun acted as a bactericide, killing the Tubercular bacillus. Later it was theorized that the vitamin D created in the skin also attacked the TB bacillus, though there is no evidence that cod liver oil (high in vitamin D and once sold to treat TB) ever cured tuberculosis. Whatever the answer, sun therapy helped heal tuberculosis; this is a fact.

Children with tuberculosis sunning at a Canadian hospital.

More Images of

Only three percent of the light reaching the earth’s atmosphere is Ultra Violet, and of that, most is shielded by the ozone layer (which seems to be thinning). UV light comes in two flavors: UVA and UVB. It is UVB that is essential to producing vitamin D in humans through a process you probably thought only occurred in plants: photosynthesis.

Why We Need UV Light

UV light activates vitamin D synthesis.
UV light lowers blood pressure.
UV light increases heart "performance".
UV light improves ECG and blood parameters in persons suffering from arteriosclerosis.
UV light lowers cholesterol counts.
UV light helps in weight loss.
UV light is effective against psoriasis.
UV light is effective with numerous other ailments (Krudsen in his book Light Therapy lists 165 diseases).
UV light promotes the production of sex hormones.
UV light activates an important skin hormone (Solitrole).
UV light is a nutrient just as vitamins and minerals.

 “Heliotherapy" was very popular in Europe from 1900 to c. 1940. One Dr. Rollier, head of a sun therapy clinic, wrote a volume titled La Cure de Soleil [The Sun Cure].

Vitamin D could be labeled a hormone, according to Dr. Michael Holick, the author of the book The UV Advantage. A hormone is a secretion of a gland that travels through the blood to a specific tissue for a specific purpose. Vitamin D, for example, is created in the epidermis (technically not a gland, but close enough for Dr Holick) travels through the blood, and aids in calcium metabolism allowing our bones (a tissue) to absorb calcium. You should also note that only one third, approximately, of the calcium you take in is absorbed by the bones. If you are vitamin D deficient, only 10 to 20% of your calcium will be absorbed.

Concerning cancer, a study published in Anticancer Research in 2006 confirmed that vitamin D produced by UV light reduces the risk of 16 sites of cancer: 3 cancers of female organs, 6 cancers of gastrointestinal organs, 2 types of lymphomas, 3 types of urogenital cancers, and 2 upper digestive tract cancers. The study went on to say, "The mechanisms whereby vitamin D reduces the risk of cancer are well known, and include effects on intercellular adhesion, apoptosis (programmed cellular death), the inhibition of angiogenesis around tumors, and the inhibition of metastasis.” [ ]

Vitamin D, besides aiding the metabolism of calcium, also regulates cell growth. It is the first line of therapy for psoriasis, according to Dr Holick. In latitudes where inhabitants get less UV levels, cancer rates are higher. Cancer is unregulated cell growth. Vitamin D therapy helps prevent a great number of diseases, including cancers such as prostate, breast, colon, and ovarian cancers, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, psoriasis, seasonal affected disorder, diabetes (both type I and II), autoimmune thyroid disorders, lupus, and even tooth decay and schizophrenia.

In the UK where the sun appears less than Dick Cheney comes out of his bunker, vitamin D deficiency is rampant. Clinical Rheumatology (July, 2006) reported on a study in the UK where those suffering from vitamin D deficiency scored much higher on anxiety and depression tests than those who had healthy vitamin D levels.

When we don’t get enough sunlight, the disorder you can get is called SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you are depressed, ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels. And don’t think that conventional medicine’s “normal” range is healthy. Dr Robert Jay Rowen, MD ( feels that 45-50 ng/ml is optimal. Dr Rowen recommends, if you can't get into the sun, get yourself some cod liver oil, 2000 to 2600 mg/day should be enough. (Rheumatoid arthritis is a very debilitating immune system disorder. Most therapies we hear about for arthritis involve osteoarthritis, the more common form of arthritis. Studies show [Adv Ther. 2002 Mar-Apr;19(2):101-7] that cod liver oil can give relief to those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.)

And yet, with all we know about the benefits of vitamin D, in America vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic.

In his ebook, The Healing Power of Sunlight & Vitamin D, Mike Adams sums up the epidemic thusly:

  • 32% of doctors and med school students are vitamin D deficient.
  • 40% of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient.
  • 42% of African American women of childbearing age are deficient in vitamin D.
  • 48% of young girls (9-11 years old) are vitamin D deficient.
  • Up to 60% of all hospital patients are vitamin D deficient.
  • 76% of pregnant mothers are severely vitamin D deficient, causing widespread vitamin D deficiencies in their unborn children, which predispose them to type 1 diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia later in life. 81% of the children born to these mothers were deficient.
  • Up to 80% of nursing home patients are vitamin D deficient.

African Americans are deficient in vitamin D simply because of their dark skin. The darker the skin, the longer they must be in sunlight to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. African Americans in the northern latitudes get even less UV light to create vitamin D, and prostate cancer among northern latitude African Americans is epidemic. If you are dark pigmented, you could require up to 20 to 30 times the amount of sun exposure of your light skinned neighbors. And ironically, our light skinned neighbors lather up in sun screens before going outside, and even a weak sunscreen will block up to 95% of vitamin D generation. The more you have on, the longer you have to be out to get your daily requirement of vitamin D. Put on too much, and you’ll have to spend all day in the sun, so, it is advised to sun smartly. Go into the sun for fifteen minutes, and then put your sunscreen on. The lighter the skin, the less sunlight you need. The higher the latitude the more sunlight you need.

Dr. Michael Holick’s book, The UV Advantage has a table in it that will show you how much time you need based upon your skin type and latitude. This is a very handy table.

Sadly, your diet will NOT get you enough vitamin D. We’re told to drink milk, but Mike Adams points out that it will take ten glasses to get our daily requirement of vitamin D. You can supplement with vitamin D caps or cod liver oil (a favorite of mine, since you get your fish oils too, the DHA [docosahexaenoic acid] and EPA [eiocosapentaenoic acid]). How much is required? One thousand International Units (IU) per day. Mike Adams points to a study in the UK where babies received 2000 IU of vitamin D and they had a remarkable 80% decreased risk of developing Type I diabetes.

You should also note that vitamin D, to be activated must pass thru the kidneys and liver.  Kidney or liver disease greatly impairs the activation of vitamin D.

Another interesting point I got from interviewing an ophthalmologist is that the blind are consistently vitamin D deficient. He advises, if you wear glasses, spend time in the sun without your glasses.

If you are vitamin D deficient, it will take a few months of sunlight or supplementation to reverse. Don’t expect a quick fix. To find out if you have an extreme deficiency in vitamin D, Mike Adams tells us to put your hand over your sternum and push. If it’s very painful, then you are very deficient in vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency results in depression, rickets, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and aches and pains. It is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia. Prolonged vitamin D defiance can result in all those illnesses listed above that vitamin D therapy prevents.

And the best place to get it?

Go outside. It’s free!

But know this: brief exposure to a lot of skin is better than prolonged exposure to any amount of skin. Most vitamin D is synthesized in 20-30 minutes. Experts feel you should be active during this time, do not wear glasses, wear a hat, and enjoy yourself.

Further Reading:

UV Light Part II

UV Light Part III - Bioluminescence Therapy

The UV Advantage: The Medical Breakthrough That Shows How to Harness the Power of the Sun for Your Health




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