When we hear recommendations to get more sunshine, it’s usually because the right sunshine exposure will help your body produce vitamin D, a vitamin that seems to have endless benefits when it comes to total-body health. But I’m not talking about vitamin D today. As it turns out, you may still need some sun even if you are taking a vitamin D supplement.
A recent study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that exposure to UV rays for 20 minutes resulted in a drop in blood pressure for the following hour when compared to exposure to only heat. But vitamin D levels did not change. Instead, nitric oxide is thought to be increased. Nitric oxide is an important blood vessel–dilating compound naturally produced in the body (and also obtained through the diet).
More research is needed to determine how much sun exposure provides benefit, and this needs to be weighed against skin cancer risk, of course. Heart disease and stroke linked to high blood pressure lead to around 80 times more deaths than does skin cancer, however. “We now plan to look at the relative risks of heart disease and skin cancer in people who have received different amounts of sun exposure. If this confirms that sunlight reduces the death rate from all causes, we will need to reconsider our advice on sun exposure,” stated Dr. Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh.
This summer, get a little sun on your skin. Spend just a few minutes a few times a week in the sun with adequate skin exposure.