If you are like me then you love the sun and the way it makes you feel, regardless of what dermatologists have been telling us over the past few decades. I have always felt that the vitality and tranquility that the sun provides me is worth a wrinkle here and there that the derm warned me would show up as I get older. But now there is even more reason to get out and soak up some rays whenever you can. People with more vitamin D in their systems have been shown to have shorter telomere length! Why is that reason to celebrate? Let me explain...
Telomeres are located at the ends of our DNA strands and are a biomarker for our biological age. The older our body is, which is not directly tied to years spent living, the shorter our telomeres become. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined over 2000 women, ranging in age from 18-80, and found that those with the highest serum levels of vitamin D had the longest leukocyte telomere length.
The reason for this finding is thought to be the powerful anti-inflammatory effects demonstrated by vitamin D. Other studies have shown that participants with higher serum vitamin D have lower concentrations of inflammatory markers like C Reactive Protein.
A lot of things contribute to aging but inflammation and oxidative stress are major culprits. The more that our bodies are in a state of inflammation, the more often our body's cells have to replicate and replace themselves. Every time they do this the telomere lengths of the DNA in the cells is shorter than before.
Major contributors to chronic inflammation are poor diet choices, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, drinking alcohol, and stress. I know, it's the same old song I have been singing. But maybe now you are starting to understand the lyrics. Vitamin D helps fight against all of the effects of our pro-inflammatory bad habits.
Vitamin D can be taken supplementally, found in foods like mushrooms or fortified milk, or manufactured in your body after sun exposure. I always say that the natural sources of whatever nutrient you are trying to get are the best sources, so I prefer to take in my vitamin D through sun exposure and foods.
But what about the dermatologist? Is he just plain wrong? Probably not. You definitely don't want to spend TOO MUCH time in the sun. The sun can definitely burn you, which causes an inflammatory reaction which brings on oxidative stress and, as we have seen, shortens telomere length. So how much sun should you get? It is different for each person. The best and most obvious advice I can give you is just don't burn yourself. It is the same with anything. Don't take it to an extreme. Wine is good for you in small amounts and can even be anti-aging as well but don't kid yourself and drink a bottle a day.
So, here's to the return of the sun. Welcome back into our hearts old friend. I never doubted you. Anything that is good for Superman is good for me!