Winter Blues may be Caused by Lack of Sunlight
Many people report feeling blue during the dark, cold winter months. This dip in mood is thought to be caused by lowered levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain. Serotonin levels are low in people with depression and, a new study found, also in healthy people during the winter.
Certain people will suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression that occurs during the fall and winter months, due to this drop in serotonin levels.
In the study, blood samples were taken from blood vessels leading to the brain in 101 healthy men at several different times over a one-year period. Results indicated that the activity of serotonin-containing neurons was lowest during the fall and winter and highest in spring and summer, when sunlight is most plentiful.
A technique known as phototherapy, in which patients are exposed to bright light, is used to treat those with SAD. Since serotonin levels rise in the brain on days with a lot of sunlight, bright light may boost mood by activating neurons in the brain that contain serotonin, leading to increased levels of the chemical in the brain, researchers say. In the study, serotonin neuron activity was higher on brighter days than darker days, even within the same season. This suggests that levels of serotonin in the brain were directly related to how much sunlight was available on the day the sample was taken.
Though this study involved men, researchers say that women likely experience a drop in serotonin levels during the winter as well, though the actual amount may differ according to gender. Additionally, researchers note that results point to a biological reason for SAD, which may help to displace some of the skepticism regarding this, and other, mental illnesses.
The Lancet December 7, 2002;360:1840-1842
Synchronizing Light to Treat Depression
Bright light treatments may help lift people from the depths of severe winter depression, but new research suggests that timing these treatments to the body’s internal clock may improve light’s antidepressant affect.
The results of the study suggest that:
Light has its most antidepressant effect if used early in the morning.
Light therapy, a treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), can alter the body’s internal clock
Therapy sessions timed to match an individual’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, can be twice as effective as those applied later in the morning or in the evening. There’s a direct neural connection from the retina in the eyes to the site of the biological clock in the (brain). The biological clock resets depending upon the pattern of daily light exposure.
As many as half the people in the middle and extreme latitudes of the earth feel at least mildly depressed with seasonal changes. In the US, 6% of these experience the more severe symptoms of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Light therapy, however, can trick the brain into thinking it is spring or summer instead of fall or winter.
Melatonin is the hormone in the animal kingdom that (alerts) the nervous system the season of the year. As night length grows longer the melatonin secretory episode also grows longer, and that’s what puts our brain and body into a winter state.
The investigating team found that 30 minutes of intense, bright light (with no ultraviolet radiation) about 2 to 3 hours after the midpoint of sleep produced the best antidepressant results.
In fact, light timed to this point in the circadian cycle actually doubled the effectiveness of the therapy as compared to sessions in the evening, a time when melatonin begins to be released. SAD patients who underwent the early morning light therapy sessions had an 80% chance of sending their depression completely into remission.
“There’s an optimum circadian time, internal time, for the administration of light therapy in order to achieve the antidepressant affect for SAD. The pattern of light exposure is the critical event to that synchronizes the internal clock to the external world.
Archives of General Psychiatry; January 15, 2001; 58; 69-75
DR. MERCOLA’S COMMENT:
Most are familiar with the benefits of light for treating SAD, but this article is useful as it provides valuable information on the timing of the light.
Previous research has shown that even shining light on the back of the knee can be helpful at restoring natural biorhythms.
This study provides an elegant confirmation that early morning risers tend to do far better with depression. I have long encouraged people to get to bed early in the winter so they can get up early. Apparently the early arising exposes one to light that is closer to being synched with natural biorhythms.
This will provide powerful normalizing forces for the adrenal glands which control many of our hormone systems through delicate feedback mechanisms.
Light Treatment In Morning Best For Sad
SAD is estimated to affect more than 10 million Americans. Bright light therapy, where special light boxes are used to treat the depression associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is particularly effective when administered first thing in the morning.
The authors recommend that bright-light exposure be scheduled immediately on awakening in the treatment of most patients with seasonal affective disorder.
A number of previous trials have found light therapy — exposure to bright artificial light — more effective in treating SAD than sham or “placebo” therapy. But past studies have come to conflicting conclusions regarding the relative effects of morning and evening light therapy. While many findings suggest that morning therapy is most effective, a few suggest morning and evening therapy are equally effective.
Archives of General Psychiatry 1998;55:863-864,875-882,883-889,890-896.
COMMENT: This is the time of the year where we need to crank out the full spectrum lights. This series of three studies seems to provide compelling evidence that the best time for light therapy is in the morning. I am not a strong advocate of light box therapy however, but I believe that exposure to full spectrum lights in the environment all day long are probably better.
A few points to remember: One can NOT have an incandescent full spectrum bulb. Neodymium bulbs are color corrected and not much better than regular bulbs but much more expensive. Do not be fooled. Fluorescent bulbs are the only one that produce full spectrum light. When searching for them there are a few things to remember about the four foot bulbs as I believe all the compact full spectrum fluorescent come from the same garage. The long bulbs, however are different.
Full sunlight is characterized as having a rating of 5500 with a CRI (color retention index) of 100. That would be perfect. The closer to 5500 the better, higher numbers are not better here, one wants 5500. I have seen bulbs that are 5700 with a CRI of 91. If anyone finds a better bulb, please let me know.
Energy and Health Builder
And a Breakthrough in Prevention of AIDS
This paper enlarges and updates my article on full-spectrum light in Price-Pottenger Health Journal, Winter 1995. Recent research, not yet incorporated into this paper, fully supports the statements made here and conclusions reached.
America has a phobia–an irrational fear–about ultraviolet (UV) light. In a new science fad, unwise practices are being urged on us. The resulting sickness and misbehavior will mystify yet enrich physicians, psychiatrists, dentists and criminal specialists, as well as pharmaceutical drug companies.
In too many scientific and medical fields, for a lot of researchers the truth is defined only in relationship to the next grant, peer pressure and the fight to further an entrenched view. This essentially political process goes on despite any–in this case very strong–evidence to the contrary. Much “science” research is known to be fraudulent. Such a flow of funded research almost exclusively in one direction is characteristic of potentially dangerous science fads. Almost all “scientists” are out to prove something so as to continue their careers; to them, finding the truth is only secondary.
UV (ultraviolet) intensity is now forecast in population centers daily. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests when outdoors we “protect ourselves against ultraviolet light whenever we can see our shadow.” And many physicians give their patients the same warning.
This is terrible advice. If man were a machine, doctor could repair or replace one part without worrying about the rest of the contraption. Man is no machine, but more like a web or hologram. Every organ and every part affects, and in fact cells in every part communicate with, all the other parts.
As a result of the EPA’s kind of advice, which is based on junk science, use of sunglasses is epidemic; we hide behind stylish darkened car windows, we slather our skin with sunscreen for even brief sun exposure. People who engage in these practices are ruining their disposition and health. Disposition: see footnote. Health: read on.
The phobia arose after investigators anesthetized animals, propped their eyes open and shined intense UV light into them. Their retinas were damaged. And excessive exposure to one kind of ultraviolet (shorter-wave, germicidal UV-C) can damage tissue. UV-C may (but it may not) be present increasingly in sunlight with the purported thinning of the protective ozone layer. (It is also found in tanning salons and halogen lamps. ) But EPA makes the ridiculous leap from that truth to the conclusion that we should avoid all UV.
In fact, the trace amounts of UV radiation in natural daylight are required for physical and mental health, civilized behavior, muscle strength, energy and learning. Sunlight, in moderation, improves immunity and stimulates our metabolism while decreasing food craving, and increases our intelligence.
SIDEBAR: Even low exposure to UVB significantly increases risk of cataracts. But that happens only while consuming a Western junk food diet rich in unsaturated fats and their oxidized products. But those who consume a more sensible diet and supplement vitamins C and E do not get cataracts even from lengthy sun exposure.
Starting from a high school hobby of time-lapse photography, John N. Ott, Sc.D. Hon., founded the new science of photobiology. Now over 90, he is still active. Among many publications, Dr. Ott’s latest book is Light, Radiation and You: How to Stay Healthy. Greenwich, CT: Devin-Adair Publishers, 1990.
“Mankind adapted to the full range of the solar spectrum,” he wrote, “and artificial distortions of that spectrum-malillumination, a condition analogous to malnutrition–may have biologic effects.” “There are neurochemical channels from the retina to the pineal and pituitary glands, the master glands of the whole endocrine system that controls the production and release of hormones. This regulates your body chemistry and its growth, all organs of your body including your brain, and how they function.”
The critical reader will justly ask, Where are the controlled, scientific tests supporting Dr. Ott’s statements? The answer to that question: Who can make money promoting sunlight? Think about it.
I. First let’s consider health effects of ultraviolet (UV) deprivation. Malignant melanoma, the dangerous kind of what is called skin cancer–it is ultimately fatal if not corrected–is often alarmingly but wrongly blamed on sun exposure. A study by the U.S. Navy found the most melanoma in people who work indoors all the time. Those who worked both outdoors and indoors some of the time had the lowest incidence. Also, most melanomas appear on parts of the body that are seldom exposed to sunlight. The inference is that both very high and very low exposures to UV light can be harmful–and moderate exposure is healthful.
Sunscreens block out only UVA and UVB, which we all need in trace amounts, but not the potentially dangerous, germicidal UVC; and no commercial sunscreen has been proved safe. Their chemicals penetrate the skin into the circulation and add to the burden of toxins to be detoxified. Commercial sunscreens increase risk of melanoma by causing mutations when the cells’ chromosomes interact with the chemicals and the light. Natural sunscreens, as well as commercial ones, also curtail needed uptake of vitamin D3 from UV-B, increasing risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis (see later).
What about sunscreens? From Lita Lee, PhD. “Mounting evidence indicates that many of them contain carcinogens and that the rise of skin cancers parallels the increase in sunscreen usage. The only sunscreen I recommend is coconut oil, although believe me, you cannot slather this oil on your skin and bake in the sun all day. Adding a little iodine to the coconut oil for the first week of summer gives added protection; however, do not use the iodine for more than a week as continued use will inhibit your thyroid function. In my opinion, the only other safe (non-carcinogenic) sunscreen would be one containing titanium dioxide.”
A study published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet and a Russian study found fluorescent light rather than sunlight promotes melanoma, proportionately to the time of exposure. Among a sample of nearly 900 women, those who worked indoors under fluorescent lighting had 2.l times higher melanoma risk (95% confidence interval, C.I., 1.32 to 3.32) than others. Among women exposed for 20 years or more, the relative risk (RR) was 2.6 (95% C.I. was 1.2 to 5.9).
Relative risks were lower in women who had been most heavily exposed to sunlight, both playing outdoors as children and sunbathing as adults. In a smaller sample of men, the RR for fluorescent lights with 10 or more years’ exposure was 4.4. And for those who had spent the least time in the sun while children, the RR was 7.3.
And so we see that lengthy exposure to full-spectrum sunlight including trace-UV partially “immunized” both men and women against later development of melanoma. These exposures had taken place in the 1960s and 1970s before the protective ozone layer far above us was thought to have thinned. But that might not matter: UV penetration of the atmosphere, some authorities say with considerable factual support, has not increased. All this thoroughly explodes the claim that sun exposure causes malignant melanoma.
In the years since publication of Science’s carefully researched article, no one has refuted the finding. But many ignore it and could make more money if the article and its information would simply go away.
Why do fluorescent lights cause melanoma? “Emissions from such light extend into the potentially carcinogenic range.” Dr. Ott found that, specifically, the cathodes located at the ends of the light tubes emit X-rays and other electromagnetic pollution.
Plants living under the central portion of long fluorescent light tubes grow normally; but when placed close to the ends of the tubes, their growth is abnormal and stunted. Laboratory animals placed in a cage close to the ends of these light tubes become aggressive and cannibalistic. Also, he found that the light from fluorescent tubes, as well as TV sets and computer terminals, causes red blood cells to clump together after exposure to these sources for prolonged periods. This promotes reduced alertness and a tired feeling.
But when the ends of the light tubes are shielded with lead and traces of UV are added to the light, plants and animals under them grow and function normally. And so wrapping the ends of fluorescent light tubes with lead tape, says Dr. Ott, is fully as important as full-spectrum light itself (See II.)
Melanoma can also result from excessive exposure to sunlamps: their rays and those from bright halogen lights include some of the dangerous UVC. (Halogen lamps are also a serious fire hazard if they fall over or inflammable material touches the extremely hot bulb.
Drinking and swimming in chlorinated water can also cause malignant melanoma . Sodium hypochlorite, used in chlorination of water for swimming pools, is mutagenic in the Ames test and other mutagenicity tests. Redheads and blonds are disproportionately melanomaprone; their skin contains a relative excess of pheomelanins compared to darker people.
Franz H. Rampen and his associates in the Netherlands state that the worldwide pollution of rivers and oceans and the chlorination of swimming pool water have promoted an increase in melanoma. Another major factor in the increase in reported incidence of melanoma has been physicians’ continually relaxing their standards for what constitutes melanoma.
What about oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?
Melanomas have increased sharply among women in the principal Pill-taking countries Australia, America and in Europe. In the Walnut Creek (California) study, all the women who developed melanomas under the age of 40 had used the Pill. By 1981, the overall increased melanoma risk for Pill-users was statistically significant at three times. The Pill also promotes development of heart attacks, in part by depleting body stores of vitamin B6.
Further, like breast cancer cells those tumors have estrogen receptors. And so women on HRT are more likely to develop melanomas than non-users. A recent study of 52,705 women on HRT found that the risk of breast cancer increases by 2.3 percent for each of the 11 years the average woman takes HRT. The good news is that the effect diminishes on stopping it and disappears after about five years. The authors comment, “These findings should be considered in the context of the benefits and other risks associated with the use of HRT.” Others challenge the assumption that HRT provides benefits.
II. Certain effects of ultraviolet deprivation are equally remarkable and tie together with health benefits.
In 1973, radiation-shielded full spectrum lights were installed in five classrooms in Sarasota, Florida. And what happened? Several extremely hyperactive, learning-disabled children calmed down completely and learned to read. Absenteeism dropped. The children in four standard-lighted rooms continued to misbehave, as tracked by concealed motion-detecting cameras; their learning disabilities and absenteeism were unabated. And after a year students in the full-spectrum classrooms had one-third less tooth decay than those taught under standard lighting. Laboratory mice, which had been exposed all their waking hours to FS light, had zero tooth decay.
Similar findings were reported from California, Washington State, and Alberta, Canada. A classroom comparison in Vermont found full spectrum lighting strengthened immunity.
Why was there so much less tooth decay after exposure to full-spectrum light including trace UV? And why did immunity improve under FS lights? “Every nutritional substance and medicine,” says Dr. Ott, “has a specific wavelength absorption. If those wavelengths are missing in the artificial light source a person is exposed to, then the nutritional or other hoped-for benefits of the substance will not be utilized.” UV functions as a nutrient and as a cofactor (substance required for a bodily process to occur) in utilization of other nutrients.
So the full spectrum lights corrected the children’s deficiency of vitamin D3 (which is not the same as the toxic form of vitamin D that is added to milk), now considered a pro-hormone. This enabled more complete calcium absorption–and lowered risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures in later life. Recent research has found that nearly half of people of all age groups, taking RDA-strength supplements, have too little vitamin D. When the body doesn’t have enough of it to absorb adequate calcium from food, it extracts calcium from bone.
FS light also strengthens immunity in other ways. It helps protect against multiple sclerosis, heart attacks and conversion of HIV to AIDS, among others. These are elaborated and fully referenced in the remainder of the paper. “Protect ourselves from ultraviolet whenever we can see our shadow,” as the EPA frighteningly warns? Won’t doing that then constitute a full-employment plan for dentists, orthopedic surgeons and oncologists –as well as pharmaceutical drug companies?
Cancers hate full-spectrum light. A tumor-susceptible strain of mice lived more than twice as long under full-spectrum as under standard lighting, and rats exposed to full-spectrum light had significantly lessened tumor development. The tunnel-visioned National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society ignore these findings, which six major medical centers have confirmed.7
Terminal cancer patients that Dr. Ott knew of personally got well in a rocking chair in the sunshine. Dr. Jane Wright, directing cancer research at Bellevue Memorial Medical Center in New York City in 1959, was fascinated by Ott’s ideas. So she instructed progressive-tumor patients to avoid artificial lights and stay outdoors as much as possible that summer. They were not to wear sunglasses or prescription lenses, which block UV light.
By that fall, the tumors in 14 of 15 had not grown, and some patients got better; the one whose condition deteriorated sat outdoors but wore prescription lenses. Ott has been criticized for making no scientifically controlled human studies. Well, funding for continuing that study was withdrawn–and that has been his experience over and over.7
One lady with cancer ventured out with Norwegian fishermen, ate a lot of their catch, and recovered; friends ate fish but stayed inside–and their cancers killed them. Had she “protected” herself from UV when she could see her shadow as EPA advises, would her cancer have ended? And if sunloving Arizonans threw away their sunscreens and sunglasses and limited their sun exposure to about 30 minutes a day –wouldn’t their cancers largely disappear?
A Chicago-area elementary school suddenly reported five times the national average incidence of leukemia, a kind of cancer of the blood. All of the afflicted children but one were being taught in rooms where teachers kept the blinds drawn and the children were exposed all day only to melanoma-promoting fluorescent light. When even the amount of UV that can get through window glass was let in, the leukemia cluster disappeared.
Early in his research career Dr. Ott fell and broke his glasses; soon, his arthritis disappeared. And in 1996 Marion Patricia Connolly, executive director of Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation had much the same experience. Full-spectrum eyeglasses, i.e. lenses that transmit all ultraviolet light, are difficult to find.
Exposed to full-spectrum light, a father rat is docile and even helpful after his babies are born. But when the same rat pair are moved under standard light, before birth of the next litter the male must be removed to prevent aggressiveness and cannibalism. Moved back to natural light for still another litter, he is gentle again. Although human fathers aren’t likely to eat their babies, do we really want more domestic aggressiveness?
Alternating full-spectrum light and dark cured children born blind as a result of brain injury. The technique was advocated by W.H. Bates about 1904 and endorsed by Aldous Huxley in 1930. Efficacy was confirmed in the recent Annual Report from the British Institute for Brain Injured Children.
How can all this be explained? Full-spectrum light, entering the eyes during waking hours, promotes night-time pineal gland secretion of melatonin. This sleep-promoting antioxidant destroys carcinogenic hydroxyl radicals–and also slows aging. Melatonin can suppress growth of human breast cancer cells in vitro (in a test tube), and can cross all barriers to enter every cell. So enough sleep becomes anti-aging, antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-heart attack therapy!
Except in short-term emergencies, people younger than about 50 should use supplements of melatonin cautiously, if at all. For people over 40 to 45, in addition to its other benefits one to three milligrams before bedtime safely promotes both prompt falling asleep and a good night’s rest.
In a laboratory, viruses are weakened by exposure to full spectrum light including traces of UV. Infectious organisms such as E. coli K12 AB2480, which can cause food poisoning, dislike ultraviolet too. The Morris Center in Winnipeg, Canada, promotes “amazing” healing by shining full-spectrum light onto wounds.
The power of full-spectrum light against SAD (seasonal depression)–again by entering the eyes–has been amply demonstrated. Nonseasonal depression benefits too, but not as much. Such light energizes and regulates the body’s entire chemistry. Won’t “protecting” millions of people from UV, as the EPA advocates, then worsen the growing epidemic of depression? (Suicide attempts have remained constant, and so the increase in American suicides appears to relate to increased ownership of guns.)
The cells in the retinas of your eyes will not divide and regenerate without a small amount of ultraviolet light.
And so full-spectrum lights reduce risk of retinal degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among the elderly. Retinal hemorrhage, the most severe phase of the condition, can also result from long-term use of aspirin. White willow bark provides the same benefits without stomach irritation or blindness, as does three glasses daily of purple grape juice. And unlike aspirin, the flavonoids in purple grape juice remain effective when adrenaline levels rise. Two 400-milligram capsules of white willow bark equal one baby aspirin. Eating a lot of dark-green leafy vegetables such as kale and Brussels sprouts also helps avoid this condition.
Many dermatologists advise older patients to stay out of the sun to avoid skin cancer (see Addendum). The thousands of elderly patients rotting in nursing homes come to mind. That advice may unintentionally help to make patients sicker and older beyond their years. Staying indoors will cause problems a lot worse than skin cancer. Older people’s bones will crumble and break (osteoporosis), they will hate living (depression); articles in the journals Cancer, Cancer Research and Preventive Medicine suggest avoiding sunlight could promote development of cancers other than that of the skin.
In addition to retinal degeneration, recent research by Reuven Sandyk, MD, practicing medicine in Connecticut, shows long-term deprivation from sunlight exposure increases risk of multiple sclero-sis and Parkinson’s disease through depressed secretion of the hormone melatonin by the brain’s pineal gland. All the MS patients he tested had extremely low melatonin, and their pineal glands were calcified, i.e. hardened.
Reduction in melatonin secretion, he found, may be associated with zinc deficiency in ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “Since melatonin stimulates serotonin synthesis, and serotonin deficiency has been linked to aggressive behavior, it is possible that a high prevalence of conduct disorder and aggressive behavior in ADHD patients could be related to reduced melatonin and serotonin associated with [but not caused by] zinc deficiency.”)
He applies extremely weak alternating-current fields to the brain; this stimulates melatonin secretion, bringing about remarkable subjective and objective improvement of MS and Parkinson’s patients within one to two minutes. The magnetic field he uses is at 2 to 7 Hertz (vibrations per second), a physiological frequency–i.e., near the rate used by brain neurotransmitters.
Melatonin destroys carcinogenic (cancer-initiating) hydroxyl radicals by neutralizing their precursor molecules, and so it should help against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Melatonin interferes with estrogen receptor sites on cells; excessive estrogen from the Pill and from HRT causes breast cells to hyperproliferate (become cancerous), and melatonin blocks this action. It also slows aging.
The decline in its levels in everyone’s bodies owing to longer daily exposure to light has been pointed at as one possible factor explaining the continual spread of cancer in the 20th century.
Some of Dr. Sandyk’s patients with Alzheimer’s disease, migraine and pain syndromes also benefit from exposure to such magnetic fields–suggesting that sunlight deprivation may contribute to etiology of those distressing illnesses.
Staying completely out of the sun may also increase risk of heart attacks and much more. David Grimes, MD, at Blackburn Royal Infirmary in Blackburn, UK, notes that heart attacks are commonest in the parts of the world–such as northwest United Kingdom–that have the least sunshine. And Asian populations in the British Isles have a particularly high risk of death from heart attack that cannot be explained on dietary grounds. Having come from countries in which the sun is so strong that exposure must be minimized, they have a cultural tendency to avoid the sun.
He traces causation of many cases of CHD (coronary heart disease) to the microbe Chlamydia pneumoniae and low immunocompetence from too-low vitamin D among those avoiding sunshine. Sunlight could determine whether squalene, the precursor to both vitamin D and cholesterol, converts into vitamin D (in the presence of enough sunshine) or into excessive cholesterol (if sunlight is deficient.)
Dr. Grimes links respiratory infections and chronic bronchitis, called “The English Disease,” to poor immunocompetence due to sunlight deficiency, worsened by cigarette smoking. (In Southern Europe, smoking rates are much higher, but recurrent respiratory tract infections are scarce.) Glasgow, Scotland has high rates of osteomalacia and rickets, which he says are definitely the result of sunlight deficiency. Dr. F.A. Spencer has noted higher incidence of heart attacks in winter; he has related that to low levels of vitamin D and to depression from winter months.
Also, Crohn’s disease (regional enteritis: intestinal irritation) is much more common in cloudy northwest England than in sunny southern Europe. That is, if we accept that Crohn’s is a microbial disease, as current research confirms–probably due to Mycobacterium paratuberculosis. Once again, sunlight in the Mediterranean area could be protective through immuno-enhancement.
Other risks of insufficient sunshine.
An Alabama researcher found that lack of enough sunshine exposure may increase risk of hypertension in blacks and other dark-skinned people. Those with greater amounts of pigment in the skin require six times the amount of ultraviolet B (UVB) light to produce the same amount of vitamin D3 found in lighter-skinned people. And Dr. Esther John of Northern California Cancer Center reported that daily exposure to sunshine without sunscreen appears to lessen risk of breast cancer.
(1) What about skin cancers? One was taken off my nose in 1989, and another in 1997; such skin cancers are totally harmless if removed promptly. Recent research has found at least two ways to minimize even that occasional inconvenience, and these offer other major benefits.
The bioflavonoids–flavone compounds that accompany vitamin C in plant structures –in green tea help prevent cancers, cardiovascular and liver diseases as well as keratoses. And they explain why green tea is nearly 20 times stronger an antioxidant than vitamin E in the usual alpha-tocopherol form.
Eat a diet low in saturated and trans fats, supplemented by fresh, organic, refrigerated flaxseed and cod liver oils for omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). One hears warnings of glaucoma (excessive pressure in and hardening of eyeballs) from sun exposure. That is a risk when eating a processed-food diet. The EFAs are largely lacking in low-fat Western diets, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Pyramid. Among many other health benefits, omega-3 EFAs regulate eye pressure.
Glaucoma can also result from use of inhaled steroids for asthma. The risk appeared to be elevated by 44 percent compared to matched patients not using inhaled steroids. Lea Davies of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC, adds that inhaled steroids may cause about one-third of the 3,000 glaucoma cases developing each year among Americans over 65.
Also, a published clinical test showed melatonin offers still another benefit: it lowers eyeball pressure in glaucoma patients, and the insomnia age group–for whom its use is safe and appropriate–is the same as the glaucoma age group.
Flaxseed oil is taken with 400 international units of antioxidant vitamin E, which should include the other members of the tocopherol complex as well as the usual natural dalpha part. Germany’s late Johanna Budwig, PhD, developer of this therapy, continued activity into her tenth decade of life, and was nominated seven times for a Nobel Prize.
Supplemented selenium at 50 to 250 micrograms (millionths of a gram) daily protects the skin against damage from excess sun exposure. (Intakes above 250 mcg, which could be toxic, should be used only for short periods under the guidance of a knowledgeable practitioner.) Two grams a day of vitamin C together with 1,000 IU of vitamin E also protects against sunburn.
Hardly anyone will experience skin damage from our suggested 20 to 30 minutes’ daily sun exposure. But the selenium supplement is worth taking, on its other merits, which are extremely important.
(a) A massive scientific/medical literature supports selenium’s efficacy against cancer and cardiovascular disease. A map of the United States showing areas of low soil selenium almost perfectly matches maps showing the areas of highest incidence of both cancer and CVD. The same is true in New Zealand and Australia. Crib death (SIDS) is also more common in areas of low soil selenium–such as America’s Pacific Northwest and parts of New Zealand–and so its risk could be lowered by selenium supplements.
(b) More than 10 papers published in the past two years relate declining selenium levels to the progression of HIV (“human immunodeficiency virus”) disease. An article in Journal of AIDS September 30, 1997, found that patients deficient in Se are almost 20 times more likely to die of causes related to HIV, than people with enough Se.
Recent research has discovered that selenium at 200-250 mcg a day can likely prevent mutation of latent, dormant retroviruses, including HIV, into virulent forms . This should lower and very likely eliminate risk of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) among HIV-positive persons. Intramuscular injections of vitamin B12, supplements of vitamin E complex and N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) also strengthen this AIDS defense.
NAC seems to help replenish stores of reduced glutathione, lower inflammatory oxidative stress reactions, and help protect against mitochondrial DNA damage, in turn decreasing replication of the virus. Glutathione is humans’ chief internally generated antioxidant. The DNA in the mitochondria, the “power houses” of all our cells, has been described as 2,000 times more susceptible to oxidative damage than nuclear DNA. Adequate NAC serves further to facilitate detoxification in persons who have poor phase II glucuronidation.
Will Taylor, PhD, proposed a mechanism. He is at the Computational Center for Molecular Structure and Design, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, University of Georgia. Dr. Taylor sequenced the genetics of innocent, harmless retroviruses that normally lie dormant and cause no symptoms–such as herpesvirus Simplex A, Coxsackievirus and HIV.
(The usually benign character of HIV has been massively documented by Peter Duesberg, PhD, a leading retrovirologist at University of California/Berkeley. To label HIV “the AIDS virus” or say that it “[always] causes AIDS” is wrong. Half of American AIDS patients are HIV-negative; and of the about 21 million HIV-positive people worldwide, probably 90 percent are healthy. )
Dr. Taylor concluded that Coxsackievirus, HIV and certain other retroviruses are coded for the production of a selenoprotein; and he predicted that the selenoproteins produced by those viruses act as brakes on the viruses’ reproduction. In effect, with enough Se present, the HIV retrovirus makes its own “birth-control pill.” And so selenium has suddenly become very popular in HIV-virus clubs.
When there isn’t enough Se–the low level may not reflect inadequate dietary Se intake, Dr. Taylor said–the virus goes wild. Supplemented selenium, even if the HIV can’t be eradicated, can effectively put it to sleep, preventing its conversion into AIDS.
And coconut oil, like mother’s milk, is rich in lauric acid, which the body converts to the antiviral fatty acid monolaurin. Dr. Robert Atkins writes, “This may help in disarming a number of infectious viruses, including those that cause measles, herpes, Cytomegalovirus, vesicular stomatitis, and possibly AIDS.” Dr. Atkins’ endorsement, however, doesn’t extend to coconut milk, which contains too much sugar.
(Excessive sugar is now recognized as the number one risk factor for heart attacks in women, #2 for men; excessive animal fat is #2 for women and #1 for men.)
Coconuts Saved an AIDS Sufferer’s Life
From Mark Konlee in his newsletter Positive Health News: Chris, an AIDS sufferer, found his viral load had reached almost 700,000. He went for a relaxing vacation, packing all the drugs he was using and headed for an Indian village in Surinam; there he dined on fresh coconut meat every day. Within two days his peripheral neuropathy was gone, and within two weeks he was “running through the jungle.”
Back home, continuing to consume at least half of a coconut per day, his lab tests showed the viral load had dropped to just over 300,000. Within another month the viral load had dropped to non-detectable. “My doctor is completely baffled,” said Chris. PPNF members may not be so puzzled. They read about the amazing health benefits of coconut, especially its antiviral characteristics, in Dr. Mary Enig’s article in vol 20 #1 of PPNF Health Journal, two years ago.” From Health Vectors, PPNF Health Journal 1997;21;2:6-7.
Addendum III. Related matters.
(1) Two hours of bright light in the evening can cure symptoms such as weight gain, depression, carbohydrate craving, social withdrawal, fatigue and irritability.
(2) For many older patients, inhaled steroids intended to block or reduce inflammation–formerly claimed not to circulate throughout the system–promote glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness, and cataracts. In a comparison the glaucoma risk appeared to be elevated by 44 percent, compared to matched patients not using inhaled steroids. Lea Davies of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC, adds that inhaled steroids may cause about one-third of the 3,000 glaucoma cases developing each year among Americans over 65.
Valdemar Valerian, PhD’s Leading Edge research group “noticed that DNA molecules undergo erratic vibrational patterns in the vicinity of cathode ray tubes (television or computer monitors), and that a certain subsonic signal emanating from computer monitors connected to the Internet make the DNA molecules vibrate in unison, in a form of entrained pattern.
“We consulted the eminent Russian researcher Professor D.S. Goldstein. He said, ‘I know that. It is a phenomenon known as electronically induced sonochemistry. That is how mutations occur, and that is why I stay away from the Internet.'”
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SAD and Vitamin D
Dietary sufficiency of vitamin D also needs consideration here. “Seasonal affective disorder” (SAD) has been treated successfully with vitamin D. In a recent study covering 30 days of treatment comparing vitamin D supplementation with two-hour daily use of light boxes, depression completely resolved in the D group but not in the light box group.”[i] Most Americans’ diets are very low in vitamin D; one good supplementary source is cod liver oil in moderation, either out of a spoon or as Carlson’s cod liver oil capsules.
[i] Gloth FM III, Alam W, Hollis B. Vitamin D vs. broad spectrum phototherapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder. J Nutr Health Aging 1999;3:5-7. In Sullivan K. The miracle of vitamin D. Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. Wide Traditions 2000;Fall: 11-20.
Sunscreens May Not Prevent Melanoma
Sunscreen can prevent the most common types of skin cancer– basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas — but it does not protect against melanoma, a more rare but deadly type of skin cancer, according to a researcher from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Instead, genetic factors such as a tendency to develop moles, combined with fair skin and fair hair increase melanoma susceptibility. Those with red or blond hair and light colored eyes and pale skin were six times more likely to develop melanoma than those with darker features, and those with numerous moles also had six times the melanoma risk as those with fewer moles.
Those who used sunscreen did not have a lower risk of melanoma, even though it has been theorized that preventing sunburns in childhood with sunscreen might lower the risk of cancer.
Based on the evidence, researchers concluded that sunburn itself probably does not cause melanoma, but that it is an important sign of excessive sun exposure, particularly among those who are genetically susceptible because of their skin type.
The study was presented last week at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Philadelphia. Indeed, because sunscreen prevents sunburn it might encourage light-skinned individuals to spend more time in the sun, possibly increasing melanoma risk, said the researchers.
Cases of melanoma are on the rise, and it is now the 10th most common form of cancer in the US.
DR. MERCOLA’S COMMENT:
For the non-physicians who read this, the only skin cancer that we really need to be concerned with is melanoma. All of the other cancers can be caught relatively early and are very rarely fatal.
However, melanoma can be the size of dime and can metastasize to other organs and kill someone relatively quickly. I really do not believe that sunscreen helps many people.
It is a chemical that we have to detoxify and probably the risk to benefit ratio is not justified. There are some researchers who believe that the skin exposure to chlorine that we have through bathing and swimming in chlorinated pools is the main reason we have an increased incidence of melanoma. It is NOT the ozone.
The chlorine exposure in combination with excessive sunshine probably contribute to the increase rate of melanoma that is seen. I also believe that the sun has been given too much negative press.
We NEED sunshine to stay healthy (see above article). If we don’t get a regular dose of sunshine we will suffer in many more ways than depression. I am fully convinced that is the reason most of us get sick in the winter as our sunshine exposure is decreased.
One should not have excessive exposure as that is dangerous. However, one should be outside for one hour a day if at all possible. There are 1500 wavelengths of light that will hit your retina and supply you with an essential component of staying healthy.
Sun exposure through your car or home or office window is absolutely not equivalent. There are too many of the valuable wavelengths which are filtered out by the glass.
I am very grateful that we have had such a mild winter this year and we can get our dose of sunshine much sooner this year. Thank you El Nino