Friday, October 6

Two supplements that help compensate for inadequate sunlight exposure

The healing sun

Still from El Alma y El Cuerpo music video by Bomba Estéreo

Research is illuminating a forever-growing list of sunlight’s health benefits. This isn’t really surprising when you consider the fact that we evolved hunting and foraging under the sun. - Dr Joseph Mercola

Before I go a sentence further -- is it safe to take the nitric oxide (NO) pill supplement? For the answer read the label warnings on any bottle of nitric oxide sold online and this article's warnings about whether the stuff is safe to ingest in pill form.  You'll see there are so many strictures that I think the pill form should only be taken under a doctor's close supervision -- a doctor who is very knowledgeable about nitric oxide supplementation.  

The good news is that there are foods that naturally boost the body's production of NO. Here's a list of 10 such foods(Note beets; this might explain why Russians and others who live in low-sunlight regions with long winters can consume so much borscht.)  And then there's sunlight exposure to boost NO, and a few techniques as mentioned in Dr Mercola's article linked above.

However, if you're already taking blood-pressure reduction medication you don't want to go hog wild with any 'natural' supplement or food regime meant to reduce blood pressure unless you really know what you're doing. 

Again, consult with your physician -- and if that professional can't answer your questions about NO, find one who can.  Yes yes it's an investment of time and maybe money depending on your insurance but the payoffs are large in terms of improved health.     

It's very important in a variety of ways for the body to produce adequate nitric oxide -- a point overlooked by medical science until just a few years ago.  See the second report below.

One more point before I turn to the reports below. From Dr Mercola's article, a list of some ways in which adequate sunlight benefits health (emphasis mine):
Beside the benefits derived from increased vitamin D, the sun also provides relief from a wide variety of health problems from mechanisms separate from vitamin D. For a comprehensive overview, refer to our previous article on the sun’s benefits, but here are just a few:
  • Improved mood and energy levels through the release of endorphins
  • Better melatonin regulation and synchronization of your biorhythms
  • Suppression of the symptoms of fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis
  • Treating tuberculosis, neonatal jaundice, and possibly T cell lymphoma
1. Vitamin D

Article excerpt below outlines research published October 3, 2017 in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine titled 
Vitamin D supplementation to prevent asthma exacerbations: a systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data

Vitamin D supplements protect against severe asthma attacks, study shows
Sarah Knapton, science editor 

3 OCTOBER 2017 • 11:30PM
The Telegraph [U.K.] 

Although the vitamin is produced in the body when exposed to sunlight, the researchers said it was difficult for people in Britain to soak up enough sunshine and recommended pills.

Asthma sufferers could halve their risk of suffering a severe attack which requires hospital simply by taking a vitamin D supplement, a new study suggests.
Researchers at Queen Mary University of London found that the number of people visiting A&E because of an attack dropped from six per cent to three per cent in people taking vitamin pills.
There was also a 30 per cent reduction in the number of asthma sufferers requiring treatment or steroids for attacks.
The report authors say supplements are a cheap and effective way of cutting down on potentially deadly attacks.
"These results add to the ever growing body of evidence that vitamin D can support immune function as well as bone health," said lead researcher Professor Adrian Martineau.
“Vitamin D is safe to take and relatively inexpensive so supplementation represents a potentially cost-effective strategy to reduce this problem.”
Around 5.4 million people in Britain need treatment for asthma, a respiratory condition which kills three people each day.
Asthma deaths arise primarily as symptoms worsen, often due to during viral upper respiratory infections.
Vitamin D is thought to protect against such attacks by boosting immune responses to respiratory viruses and dampening down harmful airway inflammation.
Although the vitamin is produced in the body when exposed to sunlight, the researchers said it was difficult for people in Britain to soak up enough sunshine and recommended pills.
"In the UK, sunlight only contains enough UVB to stimulate production of vitamin D in the skin between April and October – in Winter and early Spring, it won’t provide any vitamin D," added Prof Martineau.
"UVB is also a risk factor for skin cancer of course – so from a safety perspective it makes sense to be careful with exposure to sunlight, and keep vitamin D levels up during winter and early spring by taking a regular supplement." 
[. . .]
2. Nitric Oxide
Sun Exposure Benefits May Outweigh Risks Say Scientists
Last updated May 2013
By Catharine Paddock, PhD
Medical News Today

Weller and colleagues found that the body's production of nitric oxide is separate from production of vitamin D. ... This new study is important because until now it was thought that sunlight's only benefit to human health was production of vitamin D, which rises after exposure to the sun. ...  There have also been suggestions that exposure to the sun can help prevent infectious disease.

Scientists at the UnIversity of Edinburgh in the UK suggest that the heart-health benefits of sun exposure may outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer.

In the landmark study, the researchers found that when sunlight touches our skin, a compound called nitric oxide that helps lower blood pressure, is released into our blood vessels.

Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology, and colleagues, say the effect is such that overall, sun exposure could improve health and even prolong life, because the benefits of reducing blood pressure, cutting heart attacks and strokes, far outweigh the risk of getting skin cancer.

The proof-of-principle study is being presented this week in Edinburgh at International Investigative Dermatology 2013, the world's largest gathering of skin experts.

The abstract was published online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology on 15 April.

The researchers note that rates of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease rise in winter and are tied to geographic latitude (for instance they are higher in northern Europe than in southern Europe).

Also, estimates show that in northern Europe, for every death from skin cancer, about 60 to 100 people die of stroke and heart disease linked to high blood pressure.

This new study is important because until now it was thought that sunlight's only benefit to human health was production of vitamin D, which rises after exposure to the sun.

Previous studies have found that while increased vitamin D levels link to lower cardiovascular disease, oral supplements do not have an effect on this.

Weller and colleagues found that the body's production of nitric oxide is separate from production of vitamin D.

For their study they invited 24 volunteers to sit under sunlamps for two 20 minute sessions while they examined their blood pressure.

In one session, they exposed the volunteers to both ultra-violet (UV) rays and heat from the lamps. In the other session, they only exposed them to the lamps' heat and blocked the UV rays.

The results showed that the volunteers' blood pressure fell and their heart rate rose in the session where they were exposed to both UV and heat, but not when they were exposed to heat only. The reduction in blood pressure lasted for about 50 minutes.

Human skin contains large stores of nitrite (NO2) and nitrate (NO3). The researchers note that while nitrate is "biologically inert", the action of sunlight can reduce it to active nitrite and nitric oxide (NO).

They found that circulatory nitrate fell and nitrite rose during UV and heat exposure, but not during exposure to heat only. There was no difference in vitamin D levels.

Weller says in a statement that:

"We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer. The work we have done provides a mechanism that might account for this, and also explains why dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight."

He and his team now want to look at the relative risks of skin cancer and heart disease in people who have received different amounts of exposure to sunlight.

"If this confirms that sunlight reduces the death rate from all causes, we will need to reconsider our advice on sun exposure," says Weller.

There have also been suggestions that exposure to the sun can help prevent infectious disease. For example, in 2011, Phil Rice, a virologist at St George's Hospital, University of London, suggested that the sun's UV rays inactivate the chickenpox virus on the skin.


Much more research needs to be done about UVA and health benefits and is being done, as the following study titles suggest (there are surely more recent studies but these are the last ones I looked at):

Why you should listen
Edinburgh-native Richard Weller was studying medicine in Australia when something suddenly struck him as odd: Why are the Scots so sick? Australians suffer from heart disease at one-third the rate that Britons do, with lower death rates from heart attacks and heart failure, and fewer strokes overall. When Weller looked into it, this wasn't unique to Australia and England: In fact, there are wide gaps in mortality even within the UK, a gradient which maps roughly ... geographically? A five-degree change in latitude -- between London and Edinburg, for example -- shows a nearly 20 percent higher rate of mortality. Weller and his team have been working ever since to crack this mysterious gap, and most recently their research shows it may be related to exposure to sunlight. Nitric oxide (NO), a chemical transmitter produced by the skin and stored in great reserves, is released by exposure to UV rays, and this in turn is very important to cardiovascular health.
Weller is a senior lecturer in Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh. His two areas of study are the role of NO in human skin physiology and the role of skin barrier function deficiencies in atopic disease.
"An Unexpected Role: UVA-Induced Release of Nitric Oxide from Skin May Have Unexpected Health Benefits"
Gary M Halliday and Scott N Byrne


UVR has deleterious and beneficial effects on human health. In this issue, Liu et al. (2014) show that UVA decreases blood pressure and increases blood flow and heart rate in humans, which is beneficial to the cardiovascular system. This is likely mediated by UVA causing release of nitric oxide (NO) from skin stores. This mediator may have additional effects on human health.

Journal of Investigative Dermatology 134, 1839–1846 (1 July 2014

"UVA Irradiation of Human Skin Vasodilates Arterial Vasculature and Lowers Blood Pressure Independently of Nitric Oxide Synthase"

Donald Liu , Bernadette O Fernandez , Alistair Hamilton , Ninian N Lang ,Julie M C Gallagher , David E Newby , Martin Feelisch Richard B Weller


The incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD) correlates with latitude and rises in winter. The molecular basis for this remains obscure. As nitric oxide (NO) metabolites are abundant in human skin, we hypothesized that exposure to UVA may mobilize NO bioactivity into the circulation to exert beneficial cardiovascular effects independently of vitamin D. In 24 healthy volunteers, irradiation of the skin with two standard erythemal doses of UVA lowered blood pressure (BP), with concomitant decreases in circulating nitrate and rises in nitrite concentrations. Unexpectedly, acute dietary intervention aimed at modulating systemic nitrate availability had no effect on UV-induced hemodynamic changes, indicating that cardiovascular effects were not mediated via direct utilization of circulating nitrate. UVA irradiation of the forearm caused increased blood flow independently of NO synthase (NOS) activity, suggesting involvement of pre-formed cutaneous NO stores. Confocal fluorescence microscopy studies of human skin pre-labeled with the NO-imaging probe diaminofluorescein 2 diacetate revealed that UVA-induced NO release occurs in a NOS-independent, dose-dependent manner, with the majority of the light-sensitive NO pool in the upper epidermis. Collectively, our data provide mechanistic insights into an important function of the skin in modulating systemic NO bioavailability, which may account for the latitudinal and seasonal variations of BP and CVD. 
Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2014) 134, 1839–1846; doi:10.1038/jid.2014.27; published online 20 February 2014


1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is such an informative article...very much helpful!