The summer weather in the UK has been a bit stop-start, though personally I am delighted that the last couple of days at least have been very much ‘start’ as far as sunshine is concerned. So, perhaps with perfect timing, the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) here in the UK has just highlighted the value of sunlight for bone health. Sunlight stimulates vitamin D production in the skin, and this nutrient is key for the formation of healthy bones. The NOS conducted a poll which shows that the great majority of men and women polled believe that sunscreen should be applied before going out in the sun in the UK. The risk here is that this may reduce vitamin D production, which may reflect on bone health in the long term. The NOS is encouraging us to be aware of the benefits of sunshine, as well as the risks.
Personally, I welcome this message whole-heartedly: it is good to see an official organisation giving what looks likes balanced and objective advice that runs a little counter to the usual scare stories we hear regarding the supposed perils of sunlight. It should be perhaps borne in mind that vitamin D is not only important for bone health in adults, but children too. It wasn’t so long ago that doctors were warning here in the UK of a resurgence in the childhood bone condition rickets, which is caused by vitamin D deficiency.
While the NOS’s intentions appear to be focused on bone health, their advice for individuals to get some sensible sunlight exposure may reap dividends in other areas too. Earlier this year I discussed some research which supports the idea that sunlight exposure may be an important factor in the prevention of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and several forms of cancer. I’m hoping the NOS’s message gets the coverage it deserves: it’s likely that many of us could be significantly healthier for acting on it.