With all the hoopla around about avoiding the sun in order to prevent skin cancer, there's a few things we biochemistry fans would like everyone to know as the summer rolls in:
YOUR SUNSCREEN MAY BE MORE HARMFUL THAN THE SUN -
Most sunscreen products themselves contain nasty little chemicals like benzophenone-3, oxycrylene, and Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid (for all of you organic chemistry gurus out there). These ingredients mess with our hormones, increase the level of free radicals in our bodies, and can greatly accelerate our risk of developing cancer. Sunscreen is particularly dangerous because when you lather it on, it penetrates your skin and many of the harmful compounds now have immediate access to your blood stream. Think about that next time someone tries to give the sun a bad rep for causing cancer! The best way to prevent over-exposure to the sun is through a physical barrier, like long, white, cotton clothing. However, sun exposure and sun over-exposure are two different things.
NOT GETTING ENOUGH UVB RAYS CAN IMPAIR YOUR COGNITION -
According to healingtherapies, 40% of people in the United States are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can cause cognitive impairment. But while it would take you around 800 glasses of milk to get your body's daily requirement of vitamin D, and while a 4,000mg vitamin D supplement gives you less than a quarter of your daily required value, tanning for 30 minutes in the sun each day is all your body needs to produce it's own daily requirements! That's right! Now, before you imagine your body literally absorbing any vitamins from UVB rays--let me explain. The sun's rays actually give your body energy that "kicks off" the synthesis of cholecalciferol (i.e. vitamin D3). Simple, eh?
THE SUN ENHANCES YOUR SLEEP, ENHANCES YOUR INTELLECT -
Sun exposure boosts our levels of serotonin in the blood (think of it as the "happiness hormone"), as well as melatonin (think of it as the body's "circadian rhythm hormone"), and this enhances our sleep and prevents insomnia. Regular, deep sleep leads to faster mental processing, sharper memory skills, quicker reaction times, and enhanced coordination skills. In general, the benefits that we get from the sun can drastically boost our intellectual performances.
So, there you have it: If you want to boost your brain's intellectual capacity this summer, toss out the sunscreen and go tanning for just a few minutes each day! Your brain will thank me!