Sun is both hailed as a God of healing and light in several religions, yet portrayed as bad for your health when you get too much exposure under the sun. Today’s scientists also reflect the same dichotomy when it comes to their opinion on whether sunlight is beneficial or hazardous for health.

While the best-known benefit of sunlight is its ability to boost the supply of Vitamin D in your body, there are several other benefits of the sun that are often overlooked. Read on further to understand how sunlight can be beneficial for you and how much exposure to the sun is considered as safe.

Exploring the Ultraviolet Radiation of Sun

In order to understand why moderate exposure to the Sun can be beneficial to health, let’s uncover the different types of ultraviolet radiation reflected by the Sun:

1. UVA – UVA easily penetrates the atmosphere and most of it reaches the ground
2. UVB – On the other hand, UVB rays are attenuated by the Ozone layer before it reaches the ground
3. UVC – Finally, these rays do not reach the ground and seem to be completely absorbed by the Ozone layer

In short, it’s both the UVA and UVB rays that hit the ground and is ultimately absorbed by your body. Depending on the different times of the day, UVA and UVB rays strike us in variable concentrations.

For instance, during the peak afternoon time, both UVA and UVB rays reach the ground in relatively same proportions. But when the sun is far away during the earlier part of the day and the later part of the day, the amount of UVA radiation is greater than the UVB radiation.

Functions of UVB Radiation

Unlike other essential vitamins which are obtained through food, Vitamin D can only be synthesized in the skin through a photosynthetic reaction triggered by exposure to UVB radiation. This process is often curtailed and enough sunlight is unable to penetrate due to clothing, excess body fat, sunscreen, and the skin pigment Melanin.

On the other side of the coin, increased exposure to UVB rays is also attributed to skin cancer like Melanoma. However, the relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer is not really straightforward.

There are other factors that can also cause the progress of Skin Cancer including genetics, skin type and the intensity of sun exposure. A sudden exposure, as opposed to a steady exposure over time, makes a big difference.

Functions of UVA Radiation

The benefits of sunlight don’t stop with Vitamin D. The UVA rays of the sun also releases a substance called Nitric Oxide in the skin. And Nitric Oxide is what makes the sunlight even more beneficial for health.

Moderate exposure to sunlight is good for the heart as Nitric Oxide helps to dilate and relax the blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure. As a result, it is good for cardiovascular health since as blood pressure drops, so does the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In addition, Nitric Oxide also benefits your blood glucose levels by improving insulin sensitivity. A study was done to prove this and Nitric oxide enabled insulin to remove sugar more effectively from the circulation.

How to Make the Most of Sunlight?

As seen sunlight in the right amount and concentrations is beneficial to your health. So how can you improve your exposure, while minimizing your risk for adverse skin conditions at the same time?

The ideal concentration of UVA and UVB is during the early part of the day and the later part of the day wherein UVA is greater than UVB. The proportion of UVA and UVB is at its optimal level to deliver its desired outcome during either extreme of the day. On the contrary, exposure to sunlight during the middle of the day can be best avoided.

You can also use your shadow length as a marker to know when sunlight can be safe for you. For example, when your shadow length is twice as long as your body length, then no protection from UV radiation is required. But, when your shadow length is shorter than your body which means the sun elevation is greater than 45 degrees above the horizon, skin damage can occur in less than 30 minutes.

That is when you will be needing protection from the ultraviolet rays (UVB) that damage your skin. So you can use your sunscreen, hats or clothing to protect. Especially when your shadow length is less than half body length, skin damage can occur in less than 15 minutes.

Decrease your Risk of Skin Cancer with Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Another way to reduce the harmful concentration of UVB rays and reduce your risk for skin cancer is to include more Omega-3 Fatty Acid in your diet.

A study that explored the link between Omega-3 fish oil supplementation and reduction in UVB-erythemal sensitivity discovered that Omega-3 fatty acid act as an oxidizable buffer protecting skin from free radical damage.

Final Thoughts

Avoiding excess sunlight during the day is critical to prevent skin cancer. However, avoiding sunlight altogether could put you at a greater risk. Use sun protection at the right time and soak adequate levels of sunlight at its optimal level to enjoy its health benefits without getting paranoid.

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