18 May 2009

Is it about time we learned not to heed 'experts'?

Supports Chapter 11: Our irrational fear of sunlight

The UK's Daily Express today has an article about yet another study saying that we don't get enough sunlight. If we want to avoid conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and live longer we need to get out in the sun more, it says.

In 1997 I wrote much the same article for my column 'Second Opinions' in The Oxford Times. The editor refused to print it because it was in conflict with what we were being told by the health industry. A shame really as the paper was published on 21 June, the first day of summer, and so the timing was ideal for such an article. This was the reason I gave up writing for the paper. Well, the articles took time and they didn't pay much then.

Since then many more studies have also said the same thing.

In the Express's article, 'experts' from authoritative bodies such as Cancer Research UK say that they know about this and that we need more vitamin D and should strive to get out more.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't they the same people who have been scaring us with anti-sun propaganda for the last few decades?

And there are a couple of other points they still aren't telling us:

Firstly, it is important to know that only sunshine around midday produces vitamin D at our latitude. UVB, the active wavelength, doesn't penetrate the atmosphere well, so until the sun is well up in the sky, the atmosphere it has to travel though reduces its strength markedly. Sunshine earlier in the day is mostly UVA. It is UVA which causes sunburn - without the vitamin D benefit.

Secondly, it's also important NOT to use a sunscreen as this filters UVB, thus inhibiting vitamin D production. Sunscreens have also been shown independently to increase skin cancer risk. The really silly thing about sunscreens is that they are very good at screening us from the beneficial UVB, but not very effective at stopping harmful UVA! There is much more on this at http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/sunlight.html and http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/full_spectrum_sunlight.html.

Unlike most Brits who take their holidays by the seaside in the summer, for many years now I have been heading south to an island off the coast of west Africa during the winter, just to keep my Vitamin D levels up. If global 'climate change' continues its now 10-year-long current cooling trend for another decade and a half, as it is forecast to do, I'll have to think about going south during our summer too. The last time I comfortably got out in the garden in the nuddy for any length of time was March!


Doug McGuff, MD said...

As I have said for years..."Why does every dermatologist have a tan, and why does every LASIK surgeon wear glasses?"

Doug McGuff, MD

Stan (Heretic) said...

Hi Barry,

I have a question unrelated to the current subject:

- do you have and could post some data on the consumption of vegetable oils in the UK in the early 20-th century, especially 1914-1930-ties?

We are having an intersting discussion out at Stephan's blog on the most plausible trigger for heart attacks (MI). Specifically MI, not just CHD or atherosclerosis:

"Part II"
"Part I"I am intrigued by the this graph showing an extremely steep MI rise in the UK - quadrupling in less than 10 years after around 1912 (most likely 1914, hard to say exactly since the data points are about 5 years apart).


cheap sweets said...

I myself am wondering why dermatologists usually tan themselves...

Barry Groves said...

Perhaps they actually read medical journals.

Suzie said...

Not forgeting all the extremely harmful nanoparticles that make up sunscreen when enter straight into your blood stream once applied.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry
I am confused! In your book you say that UVB causes sunburn, but here you say it is UVA that makes us burn! Which is correct and what is the best way to prevent our skin from burning?

Barry Groves said...

Oops, sorry, Margaret, I wrote that piece without thinking. Trick & Treat is correct in that UVB in excess can cause sunburn. But UVB has the redeeming factor that it causes Vitamin D to be made on the skin.

UVA can also do damage, but it does not have any redeeming benefits. The dash (-) I inserted has made that sentence ambiguous at best.

Apologies again for the confusion.

chris said...

Great blog Dr. Groves! Is there any way we can protect ourselves against cataracts and still get the benefit of UV exposure?

Anonymous said...

Just eat "traditional" foods and it should not be a problem, I much prefer not to wear sunglasses, as its very impersonal and mostly not needed just wait and your eyes will adabt to the light in a relativly short time. Sunglasses I have noted can also make you lightly "depresed" especialy if they are very dark like my oakleys which filters out 90%+ and are polarized I almost never wear them now.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Chris

As Søren said, I have covered this HERE.
It's really simple, particularly if you live in the higher latitudes (UK, northern USA, etc), just eat a natural diet.
I haven't worn sunglasses for decades, not even when I go to the Canaries for two months of the year. And at 73 years old I have no sign of cataract.

Peter said...

Hi Barry,

One question - how do I avoid getting sunburn if I don't use sunscreen, or cover up with clothing? I have read Trick & Treat, but this does not seem to be answered anywhere?


Anonymous said...

Thats prity easy just get out and start taking sun already in march its warm enough if you find a place thats shields the wind. I am an redhead and have very white skin but starting early in the season means that I don't get sunburned even if I am out side in the sun for long periods. I found that I got "sun Eczema" when I started but it didn't take long for my skin to adjust now it dosen't happen.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Peter

I would start slowly - say, 5 minutes front, 5 mins back, and 5 minutes each side. That will give you 20 minutes, which is enough for vitamin D, without burning. Then gradually increase over a couple of weeks. By then your melanin (tan) should protect you.

If you find your skin is getting dry, use a moisturiser or body lotion - without any sun factor.

chris said...

Dr. G. and Soren, thanks for your replies. That was one of the few entries i missed over on Second Opinons--how embarrassing!
Here on the Canadian prairies, ('here' being 52degrees north, about 800meters above sea level) we get very long winters, dry air all year and very little cloud cover. I'm very pale and have to work up to any sun exposure at all in the spring to avoid a burn, starting with a loose-weave long sleeved shirt.

Meg said...

I'm a little confused about getting Vitamin D from just the sun. I live in southern California, I get plenty of inadvertent sun exposure, but tested very low on Vitamin D (14g/dl). I was put on supplements.

Also, I am concerned about sun exposure at our latitude, as I have the sun damage (a proliferation of brown spots, mottling, and poikiloderma) on my skin to prove it. Are you sure it's in my best interest to go out into the sun liberally?

Barry Groves said...

Hi Meg

The reason that your vitamin D levels is so very low, even though you get 'inadvertent sun exposure', may be because you are using a sunscreen.

Unfortunately, poikiloderma, or Rothmund-Thomson syndrome, is a very rare genetic conditon which I have no experience of, so can't really comment.

As far as sunlight is concerned, you could experiment, but you may be safer supplementing. If you do supplement, take D3, not D2.

Sorry I can't be more helpful.


Meg said...

Dear Barry,

You've been very helpful. I am supplementing with D3. I am not a huge fan of sunscreens, because most of them use chemicals that are absorbed into the skin. There are some sunscreens that use titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which just reflect the sun.

BTW, the condition you spoke of, Rothmund-Thomson syndrome, also known as Poikiloderma Congenitale is different from what we see so frequently in Southern California, which is Poikiloderma of Civatte, also known as "sun aging."

Thanks again.

PhilRidley said...

It is about time that people understood that an unqualified "expert" is a paid government/corporate agent.

Barry Groves said...

Good point, Phil


Saravanan said...

Thanks for this useful post. Here is some additional information about the "genetics" of this condition that was written by our Genetic Counselor and other genetic professionals: http://www.accessdna.com/condition/Rothmund_Thomson_Syndrome/331. Thanks, AccessDNA

TheTanningGuru said...

There is no and has never been any "melanoma-epidemy".

It is just an ingredient in a gigantic "black-PR" campaign invented by some large cosmetic companies in order to sell more sun-protection (SPF) lotions.

Download and read my report from "30- years of Sun-Scare" from http://tannersrights.com and discover there also how the leading "experts" behind WHO's recommendations are on L'Oréal's payroll.

Goran a.k.a TheTanningGuru

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,
I just found your blog and the site "second opinion", to resume my case, I grew up in a tropical country, took a lot of sun, used both sunscreen and tanning oils, then I moved to a North-European country and in my late 30s I started with melasma in my face, after 6 years of control my dermatolog (which is tanned too) he didn't solve my brown spots and recomended sunscreen every single day, I don't know what to think, I don't know if I need vitamin D, I am afraid of been on the sun because of the spots, they turn darker in summer, but somehow I know that cover always my skin under sunscreen and makeup can't be totaly good. what do you think.

Barry Groves said...

Hello Sela

Firstly, melasma is not dangerous. It is localised spots with more melanin, so if you go in the sun, they will tan darker than the rest of your skin. The only remedy is not to go into the sun, or to wear sunscreen.

That said, I think it is much more important to your health to have a high level of vitamin D, which is best obtained with UVB from the sunlight.

As a compromise, you could stay out of the sun, and take vitamin D3 pills at 4,000 IU (100mcg) a day (the RDA of 200 IU is woefully inadequate).

Actually, if you now live in northern Europe, the latter option might be of more use, as there is only a limited time of the year when UVB is strong enough to make vitamin D.