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We were RVing with grandbaby Amelia last week on a beautiful sunny day.  From the back seat, she said, “Mugga, turn the sun off!”  Luckily, I could see a curve up ahead.  “Okay, Amelia, let’s count to 10 and then we’ll yell at the sun to stop shining at you!”  Wouldn’t you know, the sun turned away at count 10.  She thinks I’m magic.


(Khánh Hmoong)

But is the sun all bad?  NO!  That big bright fireball in the sky sure gets a bad rap.  We always hear about the harmful effects of the sun, but let’s keep on the sunny side today, shall we?  Let’s look at some bright sunshiney benefits instead!

Benefit #1: Vitamin D

This is the obvious one, so let’s start here.  Sunlight’s UVB rays work with the cholesterol in our skin to create vitamin D from our kidneys and liver.  Without those UVB rays, this cannot happen.  Sorry guys, the sun hitting you through the windshield as you’re RVing along doesn’t count – you have to get out.  The glass actually blocks the UVB rays, but not so for the UVA rays.  UVA rays can be harmful, and have no beneficial role in the creation of Vitamin D.  Ironically, many sunscreens block UVB rays, yet still allow the more harmful UVA rays through.

To reap the most benefits of Vitamin D synthesis after sun exposure, don’t wash your skin with soap right away.  The skin’s oils need a bit of time to begin the Vitamin D making process.  How much is too much Vitamin D?  Vitamin D production from sunlight has its own safeguard mechanism; automatically shutting down to keep you from overdosing on vitamin D.  Your body can’t make too much so no worries there!

Benefit #2: Reduces the risk of heart disease

This one’s very new and quite exciting.  A recent study just published this month (led by Dr. Richard Weller at the University of Edinburgh) contends that by lowering blood pressure, sunlight reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.  It happens like this: sunshine causes the release of a compound, nitric oxide, into the blood which makes the blood vessels dilate.  This, in turn, lowers the blood pressure.  Lowered blood pressure improves overall health and even has the potential to prolong life.  Dr. Weller believes that sunlight’s benefits to heart health will outweigh the risk of skin cancer.  If this is true, it’s a total game changer.  Are the days of slathering on copious amounts of SPF 50 going to be a thing of the past?  With this current research so new, more needs to be done, but you can be sure I’ll be watching it closely.

Benefit #3: Anti-Depressant

Many people are affected by seasonal depression during the fall and winter months when there is a lack of sunshine.  One theory is that reduced sunlight leads to lower levels of serotonin production in the brain.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect.  Without enough serotonin in the body, one might experience feelings of depression.  It also leads to symptoms of fatigue, carbohydrate craving, and weight gain.  WEIGHT GAIN?  From lack of sunlight?  Yes, you heard me right.  This is because foods high in carbohydrates (pretzels, bagels, cookies) boost serotonin levels, so we tend to crave them when our serotonin levels are low.

Obviously, not all bouts of depression can be traced back to lack of sunlight.  However, if you’re feeling blue and you don’t get much sun exposure, perhaps you should check with your doctor and see if getting a little more sun might be beneficial for you.

So there you go! Three benefits that might make you rethink your distaste for the color tan.  But like everything else… moderation is key.

See you on the sunny road, RV friends!!!