Sunlight found to offer health benefits other than vitamin D

When the calendar hit December 21 last week, it may have been the official start of winter, but that’s also when the days started getting longer.

Okay, it’s not much: just a minute every day until around mid-January, when we’ll get two extra minutes. But it’s a start! And it’s good to know that no matter how cold it gets, we’re slowly moving toward longer, sunnier days.

And that also means something very important where your health is concerned.

I’ll bet you thought I was going to say that’s because of vitamin D — but it turns out that vitamin D isn’t all that sunlight has to offer us.

A new study has turned up some amazing findings about other ways that sunshine can help you fend off all kinds of infections and diseases.

Good day sunshine

I’ll bet more songs have been written about the sun and sunshine than snow and blizzards!

But here’s something else you’ll want to sing about: Exposure to sunshine can make your immune system stronger.

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center found that not only does sunlight cause your body to make vitamin D, but apart from that, it energizes a type of white blood cell called a “T-cell.” And they need to keep moving to do their job.

The Georgetown team found that sunlight exposure triggers the manufacture of hydrogen peroxide, which speeds up the T-cells’ travel time. T-cells are like your internal security guards – and the faster they can rush to where there’s an infection and disarm the threat, the healthier you’ll be.

The senior author of this study, Gerard Ahern, Ph.D., said that his research proves how sunlight “directly activates key immune cells.”

Ahern also said that some of those benefits attributed to vitamin D – especially about how it keeps our immune system strong — may really be from this “new mechanism” his team discovered.

But despite all the good things we already know about vitamin D and the sun — and now this new finding — even in winter we’re still being told to coat ourselves with sunscreen before we set foot outside. And as I’ve told you, that can be much more harmful than beneficial to your health.

First, many sunscreens contain dangerous chemicals. Some brands even have ingredients that have been found to promote skin cancer! One, called retinyl palmitate (a form of vitamin A), was found in a recent study to form free radicals that can speed skin-cancer growth.

And even though many of us may be seeing more snowmen than surfers right now, there are still plenty of winter days that offer generous rays from the sun. Certainly they’re not as strong as they are during the summer, but we can still take advantage of them.

So here’s what you need to do:

  • Make sure to get outside as many days as possible around noon when the sun is at its peak.
  • Expose as much of your skin as the weather allows. That’s easier to do in warmer locales, but unless a blizzard is brewing, you should be at least able to let the sun’s rays hit your face and hands.
  • Aim for 20 minutes of exposure – without sunscreen.

Now, you didn’t think I would let you off the hook entirely without mentioning the benefits of vitamin D, did you?

So remember, vitamin D will help make your heart healthier, your bones denser, protect you from getting various types of cancer, and help prevent depression.

Try to get more vitamin-D rich foods in your diet such as egg yolks, salmon and canned tuna. And don’t forget, this time of year a vitamin D3 supplement is vital. The recommended dose is around 2,000 IUs daily, taken with a meal that contains fat to maximize absorption.

“Sunlight energizes infection-fighting cells” Sylvia Booth Hubbard, December 20, 2016, Newsmax,