Thursday 26 May 2022

Adequate sunlight exposure may offer protective benefits for immune health, says study

 Sun exposure is crucial for your vitamin D intake. It can also offer benefits for your immune health.

According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California – San Francisco, exposure to the sun can protect both children and young adults against multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases.

The study findings, which were published in the journal Neurology, showed that exposure to the sun’s UV rays increases vitamin D and may help prevent autoimmune diseases.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder that gradually destroys myelin sheaths, or the protective coverings around your nerve fibers. In time, MS can permanently damage your nerves, which then negatively affects communication between your brain and body.

MS is a highly complex condition and how it progresses varies from person to person. To date, scientists still don’t know what causes MS and how to cure it. Research suggests that immune, environmental and genetic factors are involved in MS.

Sunshine and immune health

According to the study, multiple sclerosis might be less likely to develop in people exposed to considerable amounts of sunlight at a young age. The study also identified a link between heightened exposure to ultraviolet light and a reduction in the chances of developing MS.

It must be noted, however, that significant exposure to sunlight without protection can increase your chances of developing skin cancer.

The researchers worked with 330 volunteers between the ages of three and 22. All study participants had MS for an average period of seven months.


Responses to study inquiries revealed that at least 20 percent of the volunteers spent less than half an hour outdoors one summer ago. Only six percent of those without MS spent less than half an hour outside during the summer.

The findings also revealed that volunteers who averaged half an hour to a full hour outside had a 52 percent lower risk of developing MS compared to others who spent less than half an hour outdoors on summer days.

The study suggests that moderate sun exposure offers amazing health benefits. Exposure to sunlight enhances vitamin levels; stimulates the skin’s immune cells that help protect against MS; and may alter the functionality of immune cells to help guard against autoimmune diseases and maintain optimum health.

According to the data, some MS patients show symptoms during their childhood even though the disease usually doesn’t fully manifest until the adult years of 20 to 50.  

Geography and MS

The researchers reported that volunteers who live in Florida were more than 20 percent less likely to develop MS than those living in New York state. They think that the reduced chance of developing MS could be the result of the heightened sunlight intensity in Florida. The study also showed that exposure to the sun provides benefits dependent on the dose.

The more time you spend in the sun with adequate protection, the lower your risk is for MS and other autoimmune disorders. Findings also showed that exposure to the sun’s rays in the initial year of life “also played an important role in protecting against the development of MS.”

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