New Study Suggests That Exposure To Sun May Prevent Diabetes And Obesity
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Most of us shy away from going out into the sun because we are afraid of the damage it can cause to our skin. But is this exposure truly bad for us?

While some health professionals advise people to cover up before they head out into the sun, there are others who can't stop raving about its numerous health benefits. A team of researchers, led by Dr. Shelly Gorman of Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, Australia, recently released a new study which suggests that moderate exposure to the sun may actually help prevent the development of diabetes and obesity.

Sun exposure and the human body
It has commonly been believed that too much exposure to the sun, especially to its ultraviolet (UV) rays could be among the leading causes of cancer. So much so that even health organizations like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend using sunscreen and protective clothing and advise people to stay in the shade to reduce the risk of developing the disease.

This very debate has been raging on for a while now, and has caused many people to miss out on the potential health benefits of the sun. The human body's greatest source of vitamin D is the exposure to the sun. Lack of vitamin D has many negative implications on human health. For instance, a recent study linked cancer prognosis and all-cause mortality to a deficiency of vitamin D.

Another study conducted last year by Richard Weller and his colleagues from the University of Edinburgh in the UK had claimed that moderate exposure to the sun can have benefits for the heart, which outweighs the potential risks of skin cancer. For this latest study, Dr. Weller worked with Dr. Gorman to study how the onset of diabetes and obesity in mice were impacted by UV exposure.

Onset of diabetes and obesity results in production of Nitric Oxide
The team fed mice a high-fat diet in order to trigger off the onset of diabetes and obesity. The mice were then exposed to moderate levels of UV radiation. According to the researchers, the mice displayed a decrease in weight gain and even displayed fewer indications of the onset of diabetes, such as insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.

Additional research has shown that this effect was not due to vitamin D as it was previously believed, but due to a compound released by the skin after sun exposure - nitric oxide. The researchers came upon this conclusion by applying a cream containing nitric oxide on the skin of the mice, while the other mice received vitamin D supplement. The same diabetes and obesity-slowing effects like UV exposure was triggered by the cream, while vitamin D supplementation had no effect.

According to the researchers, previous research has pointed to the fact that blood pressure may be lowered by nitric oxide production from UV exposure. Study author, Dr. Martin Feelisch, of the University of Southampton in the UK, said, "These observations further indicate that the amounts of nitric oxide released from the skin may have beneficial effects, not only on heart and blood vessels, but also on the way our body regulates metabolism."

According to Dr. Gorman, the findings of the team are important as they are indicative of the fact that obesity may be prevented in children with exercise, a healthy diet and moderate exposure to the sunlight. The CDC reveals that over the past 30 years, the rates of childhood obesity in the US has more than doubled, with about 18% of children between the ages of 6 and 11 years, now being obese.

Dr. Weller commented on the findings and said, "We know from epidemiology studies that sun-seekers live longer than those who spend their lives in the shade. Studies such as this one are helping us to understand how the sun can be good for us. We need to remember that skin cancer is not the only disease that can kill us and should perhaps balance our advice on sun exposure."

Since the study was conducted on nocturnal animals that have very little exposure to sunlight and are covered in fur, the research team has stressed that their findings should be interpreted with caution. They have stressed on the need for further studies to determine how the onset of diabetes and obesity in humans is impacted by UV exposure. The research team published their findings in the journal Diabetes.