Friday, September 26, 2014

More on Hawaii Sunlight and Health

The biggest attractions of living in Hawaii for us are the bright sunlight and warmth which uplift our spirits and take away our aches and pains. Since Hawaii is south of the Tropic of Cancer and the southernmost location in the US, it gets more direct sunlight and electromagnetic radiation than anywhere in the United States. Exposure to sunlight, both the visible and ultraviolet components, has been found to improve health, happiness, and lower the chances of getting many diseases.

After spending time in Hawaii’s sun, aches and joint pains begin to subside.  Every winter, we talk to visitors and part time residents from cold latitudes blissfully bathing in the sunlight excitedly showing us the movement in their previously immobile joints and pointing to places that use to hurt.

Regular exposure to sunlight has been shown to reduce the risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis.  A study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases showed that women with the highest levels of sunlight exposure were 21% less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those with the least exposure.  This research agrees with other studies that have linked subjects’ location and their risk of rheumatoid arthritis as well as other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.  More exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight based on a location’s latitude, altitude and cloud cover is associated with a reduced risk of developing autoimmune diseases.

Just last year, Dr. Han van der Rhee published a review of research on the preventive effects of sunlight on cancer.  His findings were that chronic, not occasional, sun exposure is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  

The eye is very sensitive to the blue color, which is more prevalent in the morning and a delight on walks along the turquoise bays in Hawaii.  Blue light, a component of sunlight, causes the brain to wake up, increases alertness, and boosts concentration.  Researchers at the University of Greenwich showed that blue light made people happier, more alert, and more productive.The blue spectrum declines the most in the winter compared to other components of visible light, but in Hawaii we do not lose the blue spectrum of light in the winter.

Recent research at Harvard Medical School has shown that consistent exposure to ultraviolet light raises levels of beta-endorphin, a natural opiate, in mice.  Previous studies have found that the administration of an opioid blocker produced withdrawal-like symptoms in frequent tanners.  sunlight may be one of the reasons that residents in Hawaii rank as the happiest in the country. 

Every time we are outside under the Hawaiian sun we feel rejuvenated. Now we know why.

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