May 5, 2016

Director's Letter 
Carole Baggerly 
Director, GrassrootsHealth 

In an effort to increase public awareness of the importance of sunshine to human health, we are declaring May to be "National Sunshine Month."

With the transition from an agrarian to a technology-driven society, and other shifts in cultural behavior over the past several decades, Americans spend more time indoors than at any time in human history. The resulting decrease in exposure to sunlight is inhibiting our ability to fight many life-threatening diseases, including diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer and ironically, even skin cancer.

Missing sunlight puts us at serious risk of a multitude of dangerous health problems. It is essential that we improve public understanding of the need for sunshine exposure and its related health outcomes.

Over the next four weeks, we will teach you how to Harness the Power of the Sun for Health. Our goal is to provide you with education and tools to (1) assess your current situation, (2) set sunshine goals, (3) track vitamin D levels, and (4) record health outcomes.

Advice from some within the medical community, and even our own government, encouraging Americans to avoid the sun is an immense threat to human health. Click here to view a great infographic that you can share and post - to increase awareness about the benefits of sunshine. 


Carole Baggerly 
Director, GrassrootsHealth 
A Public Health Promotion & Research Organization 
Moving Research into Practice NOW!
What Amount of Sun is Right for You?

Sunshine is important for your health, but before you get sun rays you need to assess your current situation. We want to get sunshine and all its beneficial aspects, but we don't want to burn. Serious sun burns, particularly before the age of 20, increase the risk of all types of skin cancer.

What is your current vitamin D level? Do you need it raised, to stay constant or lowered? What is your current sun exposure? As we head into summer, will you get more or less sunshine? Do you live in a location above 32 degrees latitude where there was no vitamin D production until recently?

Skin Type

Skin type is very important when planning your sun exposure. The statement that "15-30 minutes of midday sun is plenty" is just NOT TRUE for many people. That might be true if you are a Fitzpatrick skin type II. It is definitely NOT TRUE you are a Fitzpatrick skin type VI.

UV strength

You can spend time outdoors at 7pm and be guaranteed never to burn. Why? The UV strength is minimal or non-existent at that time (in most parts of the globe). Understand your latitude, the time of year, and the time of solar noon. (As of writing, in San Diego, solar noon is 12:46pm.) Cloud cover, smog, and altitude all affect UV strength. The higher the UV strength - the shorter your time in the sun.


Figure out your goal sunshine time based on the amount of vitamin D you would like to get, UV strength, how much body you are exposing, and your skin type. If you haven't been out in the sun for several months (over a long winter), don't try to take it all in at once. Work slowly and acclimate your skin to the sun over time, as explained in the acclimation chart below.
Video of the Week:
Why the Sun is Necessary for Optimal Health

Alexander Wunsch, MD
Wismar University of Applied Sciences, Germany

New Continuing Medical Education (CME) Course
This information is now available for CME credit! Listen to a detailed presentation of why sunlight is good for you - for both preventing and healing disease. Learn how it was used in the past and how you can use it today.
The History of Light Therapy
Until the 1950's the sun was the most prescribed and most effective treatment for a variety of ills. In this talk Wunsch presents the history of heliotherapy, including some illustrative photographs of some of Dr. Auguste Rollier's heliotherapy patients, such as this before and after picture of a man with lupus vulgaris who underwent light therapy with Dr. Rollier in the early 1900s.

Dr. Wunsch also presents a Rollier case study showing a young boy who had severe rickets and was weeks away from death. After undergoing light treatment, he lived a healthy life. Below are pictures of before and after therapy, as well as at different stages of his life.   

There are many case studies documenting the positive effects of the sun and light treatment. For those who read French, you can order Dr. Rollier's book and find out more about his practice.
He also presented the picture below. What do you think it is?

It is an entrance into the coal miner baths that were accessed at the end of their workday. Understanding that the miners were underground all day, the owners of the mine, wanting to keep their workers healthy and producing coal, made sure their workers still received the benefits of sun exposure (in this case sun lamps). The workers stripped down and walked in a slowly moving, single file line, into the entrance of the baths at the end of their day. Was this a precursor to today's preventative health plans? Could you see a company doing this today? Similar to lactation rooms, companies could provide areas for employees to take a "sun break" during lunch time. Would you like that in your work place?
Acclimating to the sun - preparing for summer
Dr. Wunsch presents this chart as an illustration of how light therapists gradually acclimate the body to light (sun or lamp). Session 1 you only expose the feet to 5 minutes of light. Session 2, after 5 minutes of exposure only on the feet, a blanket is raised to expose the lower leg along with the feet for an additional 5 minutes. Etc... You can see that this is a very gradual process.

Paper of the Week
Sunlight and Vitamin D: Necessary for Public Health

Sunlight and Vitamin D: Necessary for Public Health
Published in Journal of American College Nutrition
June 22, 2015
Read Paper

Some of the main points of the paper include:

There is a long cultural history of sun appreciation and heliotherapy

In the first half of the 20th century, heliotherapy was widely used in both Europe and North America, particularly for the treatment of cutaneous tuberculosis. However starting in the 1950s, we started treating tuberculosis with antibiotics and have never looked back. Reference Wunsch's talk Why the Sun is Necessary for Optimal Health.

We have evolved with physiological adaptations to help protect the skin from the sun when we are mindful of our exposure and do not burn

When exposed to sunlight between 10am and 3pm, the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis) thickens and increases skin pigmentation through production of melanin. This response actually protects the skin and deeper tissues from the deeper penetrating and damaging UVA rays while retaining benefits from UVB exposure. Wunsch explains this solar acclimation in his presentation around minutes 36 - 44.

Increased sun exposure has been associated with protection from several different types of cancer, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases

Several studies have shown a correlation between cancer mortality and latitude and that there is a 50% - 70% reduction in cancer with vitamin D sufficiency (> 40 ng/ml). Cedric Garland, DrPH, FACE, explains this in his presentation Vitamin D and Sunlight for Cancer Prevention.

Improved vitamin D status has been associated with a lower risk of type 1 diabetes. A Finnish study found a 91% lower risk of type 1 diabetes by age 31 for individuals regularly given vitamin D supplements in infancy, versus those who were not given supplements. In a study of US service members, those with vitamin D blood levels < 14 ng/ml, had 4.5 times the risk of type 1 diabetes compared to those at 40 ng/ml or higher. Edward Gorham, PhD, explains this in his talk Prevention of Type 1 Diabetes with Vitamin D and Sunshine.

There is a preterm birth rate of 11% in the U.S. and an associated cost of $26 billion per year. Studies have shown that increasing 25(OH)D levels to 40 ng/ml have the potential to reduce preterm birth by as much as 50%. There are additional benefits to the mother and child. Please watch Carol Wagner, MD as she discusses meeting the vitamin D requirements of pregnant women - what is safe and what is effective.

What about optimal health?

Vitamin D is a necessary but not sufficient factor for key cell-biologic processes. It is an enabler; it must be present for those processes to occur, but it does not, itself, stimulate or cause them. Low vitamin D status does not so much cause disease or dysfunction as it impairs cellular response to both internal and external signals. Vitamin D allows our body systems to work at their optimal potential. To hear more about how vitamin D and other nutrients affect the body system, watch Robert Heaney, MD present Vitamin D, Sunshine, Optimal Health - Putting It All Together.

Sun has more benefit than just vitamin D

When the skin is stimulated with UVA radiation, nitric oxide is released, stimulating vasodilation and lowering blood pressure. During active exposure to UVA, diastolic blood pressure in one study fell by roughly 5 mmHg and remained lower for 30 minutes after exposure. Another study showed that reduction of diastolic blood pressure by 5 mmHg decreases risk for stroke by 34% and coronary heart disease by 21%.

Additionally, human skin produces beta-endorphin in response to UVB exposure; these opioid peptides have the result of increasing a feeling of well-being, boosting the immune system, relieving pain, promoting relaxation, wound healing, and cellular differentiation. Light signals received through the eye regulate production of melatonin and serotonin for circadian rhythm control and also play a role in seasonal affective disorder. Watch Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, present SunLight and Your Health: An EnLIGHTening Perspective.

What is the cost, in dollars and lives, of vitamin D deficiency?

Raising 25(OH)D concentrations appears to be the most efficient and cost-effective way to reduce the burden of disease and increase life expectancy in the US. Of the 30 leading causes of death in the US in 2010, 19 have been linked to low vitamin D status. If the population of the US were to increase their vitamin D status to 40 ng/ml, we could expect to see a potential reduction of as much as 336,000 deaths each year (out of 2.1 million attributed to these diseases) and direct cost reduction of $130 billion each year. William B. Grant, PhD, discusses this in his talk Cost/Benefit of Optimal Health with Sunshine, Vitamin D.

Are there any concrete recommendations?

Three physiological criteria outlined in the paper converge on the need for a vitamin D blood concentration of around 48 ng/ml in order to achieve and maintain optimal health. Vitamin D may come from UV exposure, dietary intake, or supplements, but should total roughly 6000 IU/day. However, because of variations in individual ability to produce vitamin D from UV exposure or to absorb it from dietary sources, testing serum concentrations of 25(OH)D remains important. With regard to sun exposure, the key is to make sure that there is no burning of the skin. Further recommendations await measurement of skin types and many variables associated with such exposure.

Call for change in sun policy

We are of the opinion that moderate sun exposure (less than the time required to burn) to the arms, shoulders, trunk, and legs should be sought rather than avoided. Once that limited time has been achieved, we agree that covering the skin or seeking shade may be appropriate. The benefits of such exposure go beyond production of vitamin D and include other physiological responses to sunlight, still inadequately explored, including release of nitric oxide, production of beta-endorphin, and regulation of circadian rhythms-all important components of lifelong health and well-being. The current policy of sun avoidance is creating probable harm for the general population. Ignorance of the effects of portions of the solar spectrum at wavelengths longer than the ultraviolet is due mainly to lack of suitable measurement tools for cutaneous and systemic responses to those regions. We propose therefore that the US Surgeon General's office, the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine, and other health entities, together or separately, engage in an immediate effort both to define and quantify comprehensively the benefits and harms of sun exposure and to develop the measurement methods needed for their detection and quantification.

Read paper
Editor's Letter
Susan Siljander
Marketing Director, GrassrootsHealth

I want to end this week with a cartoon - Sunny Hippocrates. He will be our mascot this month - enjoy!

Susan Siljander
Marketing Director, GrassrootsHealth
A Public Health Promotion & Research Organization
Moving Research Into Practice NOW!
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"Get busy wondering." 
- Dr. Robert Heaney

Acclaimed Creighton scientist with incurable brain tumor approaches death with sadness, gratitude

Published in Livewell Nebraska
May 1, 2016 

Harness the Power of the Sun for Health

Press Release
GrassrootsHealth Announces May as National Sunshine Month
May 4, 2016


free app!

tracks vitamin D from the sun


helps you get vitamin D without burning your skin


notifies you to get your sun exposure at the right time of day


Web site


Sunlight and Vitamin D: Necessary for Public Health
June 22, 2015

Carole A. Baggerly, Raphael E. Cuomo, Christine B. French, Cedric F. Garland, Edward D. Gorham, William B. Grant, Robert P. Heaney, Michael F. Holick, Bruce W. Hollis, Sharon L. McDonnell, Mary Pittaway, Paul Seaton, Carol L. Wagner, Alexander Wunsch

"This is one of the best papers I have ever seen. Congratulations. You have done it! You have laid out the argument for moderate sun exposure in a way that people should be able to understand." - Vitamin D Society

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