Did you know that type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases today? And did you know that age is the greatest risk factor? The good news is that scientists have just discovered a secret that can lower diabetes risk by as much as 60 percent. And to sweeten the deal, it’s an enjoyable activity that anyone can do.
According to current projections, the number of people with type 2 diabetes may double in the next 20 years. That is a staggering figure. So a lot of people are trying to figure out what causes diabetes. And they are also trying to figure out what can be done to prevent the disease.
Is It Vitamin D ?
Quite a few studies have tested the theory that a lack of vitamin D can produce diabetes. Several studies showed a strong connection. They concluded that a vitamin D deficiency could be one of the main causes of diabetes. But that excitement was tempered by the findings of the other studies. Those other studies found that supplemental Vitamin D doesn’t reduce the risk.
How could that be? How could half the studies show a link to vitamin D while the other half show no link? Could it be that some of the studies were flawed? In this case, it doesn’t seem so. The studies were all well done. But the results seem to be contradictory.
It’s the Sunshine, Stupid
That’s when it hit them. Some researchers realized that they were asking the wrong question. It’s not the vitamin D that makes the difference. It’s what makes the vitamin D that makes the difference.
When the researchers started asking the right question, they found that sunlight exposure is the best predictor of type 2 diabetes. Those people who regularly get moderate exposure to sunlight have a 60 percent lower risk of diabetes.
But before you plan a 2 week vacation of lying on the beach for 10 hours a day to refill your “sunlight bank”, read on. According to the researchers it doesn’t work that way. While infrequent sunlight exposure does slightly reduce the risk of developing diabetes, it doesn’t lower the risk by much. Instead, regular sunlight exposure is what makes the difference.
In other words, the benefits aren’t due to the total amount of sunlight. The benefits are due to the regular, moderate exposure to sunlight. Researchers still aren’t sure exactly why, but they are speculating that it has something to do with sunlight’s effects on our biological clocks. So ideally, we should strive to get some sunlight exposure every day.
There’s another caveat. The best results are for unfiltered sunlight. People who wear sunglasses while in the sun, even if they are otherwise naked, won’t get the full benefits. Likewise, people who expose their eyes but otherwise cover their bodies won’t get the benefits. And sunscreen can also reduce the benefits.
The best results are for regular, short (30 minute) exposures to sunlight. Eyes should be uncovered to allow indirect sunlight to hit them. Sunscreen should not be worn.
But What About Skin Cancer ?
For a few decades sunscreen makers have been scaring us with the idea that sun exposure causes sun cancer. Many of us have believed this myth and may be afraid to let the natural sunlight to touch our skin. But it turns out that what we’ve been told is a distortion of what science has actually found.
It is true that science has found that long exposure to sunlight, particularly when it causes burns, can be harmful. But we haven’t been told the finer details of those studies. What they found was that regular, short periods of unfiltered sun exposure actually reduce the risk of skin cancer by as much as 30 percent!
So if you’re the type of guy to get little to no sunlight most of the year, you shouldn’t go lie in the sun all day on your vacations. Doing so could actually put you at risk for developing skin cancer.
But if you get out in the sun for half an hour most days, then sunning yourself for a few hours while on vacation could be good for you.
What About Other Risk Factors ?
To be sure, sunlight is not the only factor determining diabetes risk. But it is a significant one. Being able to reduce your risk by as much as 60 percent just by getting some sunlight regularly is fairly amazing. Plus, there are plenty of other benefits of regularly sunlight as well, like better mood and improved sleep.
Still, don’t think that regular sunlight exposure give you a “get out of jail free” card. You still have to take care of yourself in other ways to significantly reduce your risk. And the recent research into sunlight and diabetes risk showed this is the case. That’s because the 60 percent risk reduction was only seen in people of healthy weight. There was still a risk reduction (10 percent) in overweight people. But in order to maximize the risk reduction you have to get out in the sun and maintain a healthy weight.
Of course, getting out in the sun and maintaining a healthy weight go hand in hand. You can make the most of your time in the sun each day by doing enjoyable activity. For example, you can go for a walk. You can lift weights outdoors. You could go for a swim in the ocean if you are fortunate enough to live nearby.
Whatever you do, remember a point I’ve emphasized before in this newsletter. Don’t make the mistake of trying to starve yourself to a healthy weight. Studies show that only makes matters worse. Instead, continue to eat enough, but focus on sleeping enough, moving in smart ways, and eating the right foods.
To reduce your risk of the fastest growing disease, research shows you should get regularly time out in the sun. Get outside as often as possible. And when you are outside, expose as much of your skin as you can, including your eyes. To further reduce your diabetes risk, make the most of your time outside. Do some smart forms of exercise. Then get a good night’s sleep every night.
Do these things, and you can be confident that you are doing right by your health.
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