Let the Sunshine In.

With spring temperatures climbing higher, and with summer around the corner, I figure this is a good time to remind people about sun exposure, and using sunscreen. Too much sun exposure – or the use of tanning booths – is a risk factor for melanoma (one of the deadliest cancers) and of squamous cell carcinoma. This is especially true when one gets a sunburn. I forget where I read this statistic, but a sunburn doubles one’s risk of skin cancer (though before getting too panicky, it could mean going from a  1% chance to a 2% chance. Or 5% to 10%. I don’t want to quote exact numbers since I don’t have them handy and it probably also depends on how easily one gets a sunburn, location, skin tones, etc). This increase in risk is why I think doctors tend to encourage taking vitamin D supplements rather than suggesting sun exposure to get enough vitamin D.

However there are other reasons for getting some sunlight as one uses precautions to prevent sun burns:

  1. There might be other benefits to getting sun beyond its effects on vitamin D levels. Believe it or not it might help with blood pressure!! I’ll put a link at the end of this post.
  2. It might have effects on preventing other diseases as well, though it might be due to improved vitamin D levels and not some other effect light has on health.
  3. Getting outside and exercising can improve health (though any exercise, even if done indoors, such as exercising in a gym works too).

However to reduce the risk of skin cancer, there are several things one can do to minimize the risk:

  • Use Sunscreen, at least SPF 15. And reapply if you’ve gone swimming, sweated a lot or if it’s been a few hours since you last applied sunscreen.
  •  Use wide brimmed hats as much as possible. Baseball caps don’t cover your necks or the back of your neck.
  • Get sun early in the day, or later in the afternoon. In other words, don’t go out to get sun when the sunlight is at it’s strongest.
  • Remember, even if you’re only in the sun for 15 minutes, you can get sun damage so sunscreen is important even if you’ll be in the sun for short periods
  • wear long sleeves and long pants if possible.


Anyhow, Here is the link, and a couple of references for those who want to dig deeper into this topic.

Could the sun be good for your heart?


Fernandes, M. R., & Barreto, W. D. R. (2017). Association between physical activity and vitamin D: A narrative literature review. Rev Assoc Med Bras (1992), 63(6), 550-556. doi:10.1590/1806-9282.63.06.550
Fleury, N., Geldenhuys, S., & Gorman, S. (2016). Sun Exposure and Its Effects on Human Health: Mechanisms through Which Sun Exposure Could Reduce the Risk of Developing Obesity and Cardiometabolic Dysfunction. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 13(10). doi:10.3390/ijerph13100999
Hoel, D. G., Berwick, M., de Gruijl, F. R., & Holick, M. F. (2016). The risks and benefits of sun exposure 2016. Dermatoendocrinol, 8(1), e1248325. doi:10.1080/19381980.2016.1248325
Langer-Gould, A., Lucas, R., Xiang, A. H., Chen, L. H., Wu, J., Gonzalez, E., . . . Barcellos, L. F. (2018). MS Sunshine Study: Sun Exposure But Not Vitamin D Is Associated with Multiple Sclerosis Risk in Blacks and Hispanics. Nutrients, 10(3). doi:10.3390/nu10030268
Rivas, M., Rojas, E., Araya, M. C., & Calaf, G. M. (2015). Ultraviolet light exposure, skin cancer risk and vitamin D production. Oncol Lett, 10(4), 2259-2264. doi:10.3892/ol.2015.3519
Santos Araújo, E. P. D., Queiroz, D. J. M., Neves, J. P. R., Lacerda, L. M., Gonçalves, M. D. C. R., & Carvalho, A. T. (2017). Prevalence of hypovitaminosis D and associated factors in adolescent students of a capital of northeastern Brazil. Nutr Hosp, 34(5), 1416-1423. doi:10.20960/nh.1097
Weller, R. B. (2016). Sunlight Has Cardiovascular Benefits Independently of Vitamin D. Blood Purif, 41(1-3), 130-134. doi:10.1159/000441266

The 100-year-old scientist who pushed the FDA to ban artificial trans fat – The Washington Post

The 100-year-old scientist who pushed the FDA to ban artificial trans fat – The Washington Post.

Though this link is on the older side, it does get me thinking. I feel like different foods or food groups are either vilified (get rid of fat!!) or put on pedestal (This superfood belongs in everyone’s pantry!! Go out and buy it now or the world will end!).  I know I’m being a bit hyperbolic when I put it like that. However I think that when talking about foods and supplements, it’s better to take a data driven view that is more even keeled. Not all fats are bad.  Trans fats definitely fit into the bad category. Fats are essential in our diet, without them there are key nutrients that we couldn’t absorb such as vitamins E, A, K, and D (though this last one we can make ourselves).

Aside from needing some fats in our diet, some fats are necessary for our diet since we can’t make them ourselves. N-3 and N-6 fatty acids are in this category.  Also known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, they’re used by the body to make prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which our body uses to help regulate many processes. The help regulate the immune system: in fact omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and omega-6 promote inflammationFatty acids make up the walls of our cells as well as the organelles inside cells.  How much of our diet fats should make up is something people can debate –  some (like Dr. Dean Ornish) advocate a low fat  – 5% of calories – diet. Others are at the other end of the spectrum. I won’t get into arguing who’s correct, though Dr. Ornish does has  data to show what he suggests helps reverse heart disease. Though to be fair, his program/views also advocates exercise, meditation, and other lifestyle changes, all of which affect heart disease and longevity so one can’t totally point to the low fat aspect and say that is the sole determinant of his success and data.  I think most would suggest 20-30% of calories come from fat. It’s important to get enough of what are called N-3 (or omega-3) fatty acids as well as N-6 (omega-6) fatty acids.

People trash carbohydrates a lot as well. My view of this is that refined sugar should be used sparingly. If one puts sugar in his/her coffee and only occasionally has something else that is sugary (donuts anyone? Ice Cream?), the world won’t end. If having something that is sweet helps keep someone eating healthy but not feel like they’re denying  themselves, then it’s ok.

The big danger is to lump all carbohydrates together. Yes, having some refined sugar is ok, and simpler sugars are ok in moderation: if you’re getting them by eating an apple or an orange, that’s ok. But when we talk about fiber, we’re actually talking about complex sugars which our bodies can’t digest or breakdown. These are actually healthy sugars! If I haven’t done so already, I’ll probably talk more about the specifics in a future blog.

My whole point of this particular blog is to use the above link to have people think about what they hear or read about nutrition, especially if what they hear is lumping all of a particular food/food group together for good or bad!