News and Views
What the critics say about The Healing Sun
Sunlight and Health in the 21st Century
News and Views
As more scientific evidence of the benefits of sunlight
exposure and of getting sunlight into buildings becomes available it will be
examined and discussed here.
For the last 20 years medical experts have been telling us that ultraviolet radiation is harmful and that anyone who goes out in the sun should cover up or put on sunscreen. As soon as summer approaches this message is repeated throughout the media, with little regard to the fact that sunlight is the most important source of vitamin D in the body.
Very few foods are natural sources of vitamin D, and clothing and sunscreens can prevent the synthesis of it in the skin. So, do health campaigns that promote sun avoidance add to the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency? This was one of the subjects discussed at a meeting on Sunlight, Vitamin D and Health chaired by Dr Ian Gibson MP at the House of Commons, London, on the 2nd November 2005.
For more information on sunlight and vitamin D see also:
SUNARC - Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center http://www.sunarc.org/
The Vitamin D Council http://www.cholecalciferol-council.com/
Joseph Mercola MD http://www.mercola.com/2005/jul/5/sunshine_vitamin_d.htm
The Health Research Forum http://www.healthresearchforum.org.uk/
UV Advantage http://www.UVadvantage.org
SUNBATHINGMedical opinion on sunbathing is divided. Anyone wishing to check this should go to the British Medical Journal website and call up from the archives a paper entitled 'Are We Really Dying for a Tan' by Ness, A.R., Frankel, S.J., et al from volume 319, 1999, pages 114-116.
This paper attracted considerable attention from the media when it was published because the authors suggest that moderate exposure to the sun could be beneficial. As you will see, the correspondence which followed was both lively and informative.
SUNLIGHT AND ARCHITECTUREThe Healing Sun also examines the relationship between sunlight and health in buildings. When sunlight has been valued as a medicine, architects have often produced buildings which admitted the sun's rays. But when sunlight is out of favour with doctors, as is the case at present, there is little incentive for architects to make provision for it in their buildings - other than to save energy.
The idea that buildings which admit sunlight are in some way healthier than those that exclude it is a very ancient one. As the old Italian proverb points out 'Dove no va il sole, va il medico' or 'Where the sun does not go, the doctor does' . This saying may well have been coined during the early days of Imperial Rome, when solar architecture, sun-worship, and sunlight therapy went hand in hand. The Romans put great faith in the healing powers of their sun-gods and dedicated temples to them. They were also firm believers in preventive medicine, and relied on sanitation, good water supplies, hygiene, exercise and sunbathing to keep themselves healthy. Also, from about the first century AD, they were designing their villas and public-baths to capture the sun's rays, and so reduce their heating costs. To the Romans, passive solar design would have been entirely compatible with their ideas about medicine, and their religious beliefs.
However, with the Fall of Rome, and then the Dark Ages, the principles of solar architecture were largely ignored, or forgotten. The advantages of getting solar radiation into buildings to prevent disease were not appreciated for more than a thousand years. Indeed, it was not until the latter part of the 19th century that sunlight again came to be regarded as important to health, thanks to a series of scientific discoveries.
The first, and most significant breakthrough was made in 1877, when two English scientists found that light, and especially sunlight, has a bactericidal effect - even when it has passed through glass. Their work prompted other scientists to investigate the effects of exposing bacteria to the sun's rays, and it was not long before sunlight was being hailed as 'Nature's Disinfectant', and an important weapon in the fight against infectious disease.
It has recently been discovered that clinically depressed patients recover more quickly in sunlit wards than dark wards. In another recent study, deaths were found to be more frequent amongst heart attack patients who were put in the sunless north-facing rooms of a cardiac intensive care unit than those fortunate enough to be in sunny rooms.
Admitting sunlight into hospital wards seems justified in that it improves the morale and recovery of patients; but there may be an even more fundamental reason for doing so. An increasing number of bacteria becoming resistant to drugs, and there are dire warnings that we are on the threshold of a post-antibiotic era. If this proves to be the case, and the diseases of the past cannot be controlled by antibiotics, there will have to be changes in medical practice, and ward design. In these circumstances there will be a far greater incentive to produce sunlit buildings than is the case at present.