Originally published July 23 2010
Sunshine helps your body fight disease
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Getting more sun may directly boost your body's ability to fight disease, according to a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and published in the journal Nature Immunology.
In laboratory tests, researchers found that the immune cells responsible for seeking out and destroying pathogens, known as T cells, cannot function if the body's vitamin D levels are too low.
"We have discovered that the first stage in the activation of a T cell involves vitamin D," researcher Carsten Geisler said. "If the T cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood, they won't even begin to mobilize."
Vitamin D is naturally produced by the body upon exposure to sunlight, but widespread use of sunscreen and lessening time outdoors has contributed to widespread deficiency. Although vitamin D can also be found in some foods such as eggs, fatty fish and fortified milk, it is difficult if not impossible to get high enough levels from these sources.
In contrast, researchers believe that just 15 minutes of sun on the face and hands every day will enable a light-skinned person to produce enough vitamin D, with darker skinned individuals needing two to three times as much. In latitudes far from the equator where the sun is weaker, more time outdoors may be needed, especially during the winter.
Because the body stops producing vitamin D on its own when levels get high enough, it is impossible to get vitamin D poisoning from sunlight. The body produces enough vitamin D in only a fraction of the time it takes to burn.
"Scientists have known for a long time that vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and the vitamin has also been implicated in diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, but what we didn't realize is how crucial vitamin D is for actually activating the immune system -- which we know now," Geisler said.
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