Report Confuses ‘Attraction' with ‘Addiction'
Another research project is attempting to confuse humanity's natural and intended attraction to UV in sunlight and sunlamps with unnatural chemical addictions. The New York Times on Friday ran a story headlined, "How Tanning Changes the Brain" covering the latest project.
The latest report: from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, makes the same critical mistake that others before it have made: The story neglects to mention that humans are intended to be "attracted" to UV from sunlight.
"What the researchers found was that several parts of the brain that play a role in addiction were activated when the subjects were exposed to UV rays. The findings, which appear in the coming issue of the journal Addiction Biology, may help explain why some people continue to tan often despite awareness about risks such as skin cancer, premature aging and wrinkles," The New York Times reported.
The Times story quoted Dr. Bryon Adinoff, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and an author of the study. "What this shows is that the brain is in fact responding to UV light, and it responds in areas that are associated with reward. These are areas, particularly the striatum, that we see activated when someone is administered a drug or a high-value food like sugar."
Unlike stories in the past on this topic, many blogged responses to the Times coverage understood that the report neglected to mention that such an attraction is part of nature's design for most living things.
"This is silly," one blogger wrote. "The point of chemical addiction is that it hijacks the reward system, leaving you with a craving for more rather than a sense of satiation.
It sounds like these subjects were satiated by getting their normal UV dose, which suggests their reward systems were working normally. (Addiction would be if greater UV light exposure led to the desire for even more UV.) Not all activation of the reward system is indicative of ‘addiction.'"
Smart Tan's Joseph Levy submitted the following reply:
This report missed the point about natural, intended human interaction with UV exposure and, perhaps most importantly, cheapens the legitimacy of concern over real issues involving addiction.
Humans are not addicted to UV exposure. We are ATTRACTED to UV exposure. It is entirely natural because most living things are supposed to get regular UV exposure to be healthy. That is nature's design. To say anyone is addicted to UV is like saying they are addicted to air, food or water, which also trigger positive responses in the brain. We are naturally attracted to these things because we need them. We'd die without them.
We only recently learned that UV exposure to the skin triggers endorphin production, which makes us feel good. That's nature's design. Those who mass-market chemical sunscreen as a daily-use product want you to think otherwise.
Dermatology and pharmaceutical groups today are trying "spin" this story, doubling down on their anti-sun message because their message - daily chemical sunscreen usage in any climate - has led to a 20 percent decrease in vitamin D blood levels in the past generation, according to the government's own data. (Ginde, Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009). At the same time, these groups are going out of their way to make the case that these lower vitamin D levels that they caused are "normal" and that vitamin D research isn't yet compelling.
Consider: Humans make 100 times more vitamin D from sun exposure to the skin than they get from an 8-ounce glass of vitamin D fortified milk. And ‘D' made from UV exposure to the skin lasts longer in the system and binds nearly twice as well to vitamin D-binding protein in the body (Dr. Michael Holick, Boston University).
Confusing "addiction" and "attraction" in such a blanket, cavalier fashion is unhelpful.