A recent Harvard University study has shown that sunbathing actually releases “feel-good” hormones.
So you don’t need to worry about sun tanning right now – unless you’re in the northern hemisphere escaping the Australian winter, but in the past, tanning has been said to be dangerous and bad for our health but recent studies have proved otherwise. Time in the sun produces feel-good endorphins, which can be so strong they have a heroin-like effect.
The chemicals that are released into the blood whilst sun tanning create a natural high . This may be the reason we can’t resist sunbaking despite the cancer risks involved.
Studies conducted at Harvard University this year found mice exposed to sunlamps showed signs of addiction and when they were denied the UV exposure, began to show withdrawal signs.
The experiments involved giving mice a daily dose of UV light for six weeks, the same exposure as 20 to 30 minutes in the hot Florida 12pm sun. Results showed increased endorphin levels and decreased sensitivity to pain.
Researcher Professor David Fisher describes the effect of sunlight as a weak “reminiscent of heroin”. He said the addiction may have stemmed from the body craving its dose of vitamin D, which a lot of people don’t received enough of.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in promoting the absorption of calcium in the body and provides the bones with the nutrients they need. Without vitamin D bones can become thin and brittle.
Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer including colon cancer.
We get our dose of vitamin D from our diet, supplements and the sun. Foods that are high in vitamin D include fatty fish (tuna, mackerel and salmon), cheese, egg yolk, soy milk, beef liver and orange juice. Vitamin D supplementation is also a great way to ensure your body is receiving an adequate dose.
Professor Fisher strongly believes unlike our ancestors we are able to receive a healthy dose of vitamin D through supplementation as a much safer source that doesn’t come with carcinogenic risk. He believes, “there is real health value in avoiding sunlight as a source of vitamin D”. Too much sun exposure can lead to premature aging of the skin, sunburn, eye damage and skin cancer.
It’s important to wear protective gear such as hats and sunscreen when sunbaking and not to sunbake for long periods of time.
BB Intern Lauren Walker
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