The Sun—We’ll Keep It; New Research Sheds Favorable Light on Moderate Exposure

By Dr. Paul Ehrlich

Woody Allen fans will remember his line from “Sleeper”, a kind of sci-fi Rip Van Winkle: “Everything our parents said was good is bad: sun, milk, red meat, college!” Upon further reflection, it turns out his gift for prophecy is only partially right. After years of worry about ultra violet exposure causing premature aging and eventual skin cancer, the sun turns out to be favorably involved in the epidemics of eczema and food allergies. More sun equals less of these atopic diseases.

This is an extension of the whole argument that these epidemics are part of a physiological reaction to the way we live now. Sunlight, of course, prompts the body to produce Vitamin D, which is otherwise only available in supplement form or as fortification in milk. The less time kids spend out in the sun, the less of it they will produce. Less time spent in outdoor play adds up to more asthma, according to many studies, and the undeniable epidemic of obesity, with things like less sleep and lower performance in school. Now, if European and Australian researchers are correct, add eczema and food allergies to the mix of conditions that may be mitigated by more time outside.

I would say to my patients, “Sunlight—good, sunburn—bad (and forget those horrible tanning beds); low-fat milk with Vitamin D—good; red meat in moderation; college—pricey, but priceless.”

Back to the crystal ball, Woody!

Photo: www.pbase.com

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