Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, beta-carotene, glucosamine, chondroitin, and fish oil have all flopped in study after study. Now, vitamin D supplementation has failed spectacularly in a 5-year long clinical trials.
How did we get it so wrong? As it turns out, a rogue band of researchers has had an explanation all along. And if they’re right, it means that once again we have been epically misled.
Vitamin D is produced by our bodies as a result of sun exposure. Yet, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Sunlight also triggers the release of a number of important compounds in the body, including serotonin and endorphins. It reduces the risk of prostate, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. It improves circadian rhythms. It reduces inflammation and dampens autoimmune responses. It improves virtually every mental condition you can think of. These seem like benefits everyone should be able to take advantage of.
Obviously, not all people process sunlight the same way. True, the sun worshippers had a higher incidence of melanoma, but they are eight times less likely to die from it. People of color rarely get melanoma. The rate is 26 per 100,000 in Caucasians, 5 per 100,000 in Hispanics, and 1 per 100,000 in African Americans.
Note this: for every person who dies of skin cancer, more than 100 die from cardiovascular diseases. Most of it could be prevented through regular sun exposure. And it’s free.
Ultimately, it's your call. Each person’s needs vary so much with season, latitude, skin color, personal history, philosophy, and so much else that it’s impossible to provide a one-size-fits-all recommendation. The Dminder app, which uses factors such as age, weight, and amount of exposed skin to track the amount of sunlight you need for vitamin D production, might be one place to start. Trading your sunscreen for a shirt and a broad-brimmed hat is another. Both have superior safety records. So make up your mind. As for me, I’ve made my choice.
by Rowan Jacobsen
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