Sunshine CAN add years to your life
SUNSHINE CAN ADD YEARS TO YOUR LIFE - SUNNY OUTLOOK:
Spending time in the sun helps you live longer
Monday May 18,2009
By Jo Wiley
THE secret of living longer is simply making sure you get a regular dose of sunshine, scientists revealed last night.
They used new research to show that just by spending more time in the sun, people can cut the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
A study has found that exposure to sunlight stimulates vitamin D in the skin - and the vitamin is deficient in many people as they get older because of their lifestyles and the natural ageing process.
This deficiency is linked with metabolic syndrome, a combination of disorders that increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Lack of vitamin D is also linked to osteoporosis, cancer and obesity.
A team at Warwick university studied more than 3,000 people aged 50 to 70 and found that 94 per cent had a vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency and 42 per cent also had metabolic syndrome.
Ed Yong of Cancer Research UK said: "The amount of sunlight it takes to make enough vitamin D is always less than the amounts that cause reddening or burning so it should be possible to get the benefits of this vitamin without increasing the risk of skin cancer. Elderly people can also boost vitamin D levels by eating foods like oily fish, liver and eggs."
The scientists found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with increased insulin resistance, particularly among the overweight.
Insulin resistance can be an underlying cause for metabolic syndrome.
Researchers said the results show that as we get older, we may need to spend more time outdoors to stimulate the same levels of vitamin D we had when we were younger.
The study was carried out in China. But lead researcher Dr Oscar Franco said the same findings can be seen in Britain and the US.
He said: "Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a condition that is causing a large burden of disease across the globe, with particular deleterious impact among the elderly."
He said there were many factors which could explain why older people had less vitamin D in their blood, including changes in lifestyle like wearing more clothes and doing fewer outdoor activities.
"As we get older our skin is less efficient at forming vitamin D and our diet may also become less varied, with a lower natural vitamin D content," he said.
Lorna Layward, from Age Concern and Help The Aged, said: "We hear a lot about sun exposure and the risk of cancer but older people tend to be at the other end of the spectrum. They do not get enough sun and tend to cover up and wear more clothing."
Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "We know that older people don't get enough sunshine and their ability to get vitamin D is not as good as it was when they were younger. It seems to me to be common sense that if older people get more sunshine, it will be good for them."