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HEALTH WARMING; Why a little bit of the sun can be good for you.

Byline: By Craig McQueen

WHETHER you are heading for a music festival, jetting off abroad or simply sitting in the park or garden, there are loads of reasons to enjoy the sun this month.

We are always being warned about the dangers of rays and told to cover up, but actually there is a lot of evidence they can be good for you.

So, if you sunbathe safely, you could also be boosting your health and well-being.

Here is our guide to why a bit of sun can do you good.

1 IT CHEERS YOU UP Sunshine boosts levels of serotonin - the body's natural happy hormone. That's why we tend to feel happier and more energetic when the sun shines. Regular sun can stave off moderate depression, particularly if combined with exercise.

2 IT PREVENTS CAVITIES The sun could even help to keep your teeth strong. A dental study found the prevalence of cavities was greater in children from Scotland, north-west Wales and Merseyside - areas with less than average sunshine. The proportion of 12 year olds with untreated cavities was three times greater in Scotland than in the south-west Thames region of England.

3 IT RELIEVES ACHES AND PAINS

Being out in the sun helps to warm the body's muscles and eases stiffness, reducing the pain caused by inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

4 IT REDUCES THE RISK OF SOME CANCERS

Although over-exposure to the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, Vitamin D provided by the sunlight can actually help significantly to reduce your risk of other types of cancer. A study carried out by the US National Cancer Institute found that people exposed to high levels of sunlight were significantly less likely to die from breast and colon cancer.

5 IT GIVES YOU MORE ENERGY

Melatonin also regulates sleep, so having lower levels of this hormone in your body gives you more get-up-and-go. This is why you need less sleep in summer but still feel livelier. Also, being woken by natural light rather than an alarm clock helps you to feel more positive.

6 IT BOOSTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

Sunlight encourages the production of white blood cells, which help to boost your immune system and fight infection.

7 IT HELPS YOU TO LOSE WEIGHT

Higher levels of serotonin in our bodies not only make you feel happy but also suppress the appetite, so you'll eat less in warmer weather.

8 IT BOOSTS FERTILITY

The sun reduces levels of the hormone melatonin, which suppresses fertility, so it is more likely you will conceive in summer. Sunlight not only makes you more fertile - it increases the length of your fertility. A study in Turkey found that women who get less than an hour of sunlight a week reach menopause seven to nine years earlier.

9 IT BEATS SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - or the winter blues - is a depression specifically caused by lack of sunlight. Light boxes can be used to treat it, although increased exposure to natural sunlight is more beneficial. Get out for a walk in the morning during the autumn and winter months, and sit outside for 15 minutes a day in the summer.

10 IT PREVENTS DIABETES

Vitamin D might help to prevent the onset of diabetes. A study in Finland found children given a Vitamin D supplement for several years had an 80 per cent reduced risk of developing Type 1 diabetes as adults.

11 IT REDUCES HEART DISEASE

A study in the British Medical Journal found that people are more likely to die of heart disease in winter than in summer, which is believed to be because of low levels of Vitamin D. Cholesterol levels rise in winter and this is because our Vitamin D levels fall.

12 IT BEATS IBD

People with Crohn's disease or other inflammatory bowel disorders (IBD) generally have low levels of Vitamin D in their bodies, according to several studies. Sunlight is the best way to boost vitamin D.

13 IT BEATS PERIOD PROBLEMS

About one in five women of child-bearing age suffer from polysystic ovary disease, which causes abnormal periods, unwanted body hair and infertility. Half of 14 women treated with Vitamin D and calcium at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, Columbia University, in New York, recovered normal periods and two became pregnant.

14 IT HELPS SKIN CONDITIONS

Exposure to the sun can help to heal such skin conditions as psoriasis, acne and eczema. Regular controlled sun exposure is often prescribed for sufferers. For serious cases, contact your GP. For minor cases, try exposing affected areas of skin to the sun for up to 30 minutes before covering - but make sure you never burn.

15 IT HELPS TO PREVENT MS

The cause of multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease of the central nervous system, is not known, but scientists have noted that exposure to sunlight in childhood reduces the risk of developing the condition in later life.

WHAT ARE UVB RAYS?

UVB rays mainly affect the outer layers of the skin and are mostly responsible for causing sunburn. Compared with UVA, they consist of shorter wavelengths and are mostly absorbed by the epidermis or the outermost layer of skin.

WHAT ARE UVA RAYS?

IN contrast, UVA rays consist of longer wavelengths than UVB and penetrate deeply into the skin, triggering the production of melanin, the pigment that causes the skin to tan.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 17, 2006
Words:891
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