Don’t eat cholesterol. Eggs are bad for you. Take your supplements. Fatty food makes you fat, and walking outside on a sunny day means you’ll probably die of cancer.
We’ve all heard the “expert advice” being dished out over the past few decades, but all of the above recommendations have something in common: They’ve been largely disproved by the same health industry that once said the opposite.
In an in-depth piece recently published by Outside Magazine, journalist Rowan Jacobsen pointed out that after years of telling the public to avoid the sun like a vampire and cover up with sunscreen, scientists are now questioning that advice.
It turns out that sun exposure is likely not as bad for you as “experts” once claimed, and may be absolutely vital for healthy living.
“Current guidelines for sun exposure are unhealthy and unscientific, controversial new research suggests,” Jacobson wrote.
It all comes down to D … vitamin D, that is.
“Vitamin D is a hormone manufactured by the skin with the help of sunlight. It’s difficult to obtain in sufficient quantities through diet,” Outdoor Magazine explained. “When our ancestors lived outdoors in tropical regions and ran around half naked, this wasn’t a problem. We produced all the vitamin D we needed from the sun.”
Of course, unless you’re a Kardashian, you probably keep more clothes on these days. The article summarized the advice nearly all of us have heard since we were kids: Don’t catch rays without sunscreen.
“But today most of us have indoor jobs, and when we do go outside, we’ve been taught to protect ourselves from dangerous UV rays, which can cause skin cancer,” the magazine said.
American Academy of Dermatology makes this very clear on its website, urging people to “protect your skin from the sun every day, even when it’s cloudy.” The consequence is that you won’t be naturally producing as much Vitamin D, but you can always take supplements for that, experts advised.
Except they seem to have been wildly off base.
“Yet vitamin D supplementation has failed spectacularly in clinical trials. Five years ago, researchers were already warning that it showed zero benefit, and the evidence has only grown stronger,” Jacobson said.
“In November, one of the largest and most rigorous trials of the vitamin ever conducted — in which 25,871 participants received high doses for five years — found no impact on cancer, heart disease, or stroke,” he said.
It turns out that one of the main assumptions made by “experts” was almost 180-degrees wrong. Taking Vitamin D supplements isn’t what’s actually good for people. What really makes a difference in preventing disease is getting a lot of sun.
A U.K. researcher named Richard Weller decided to challenge the conventional wisdom on sun exposure, and he discovered something amazing. It turns out that just stepping outside on nice days — sans sunscreen — is a very healthy lifestyle choice.
“Sure enough, when he exposed volunteers to the equivalent of 30 minutes of summer sunlight without sunscreen, their nitric oxide levels went up and their blood pressure went down,” Outdoor Magazine explained.
“Because of its connection to heart disease and strokes, blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death and disease in the world, and the reduction was of a magnitude large enough to prevent millions of deaths on a global level,” the outlet continued.
And skin cancer that we’ve all been told to worry about since we were children? The facts don’t back up the fears. Most skin cancers aren’t close to being deadly, and the health benefits of getting sun appear to dramatically outweigh the possible risks.
“Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor of a similar magnitude as smoking, in terms of life expectancy,” a recent study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine read.
Re-read that sentence again. Researchers are finding that simply avoiding the sun like we were once told is about as bad for your overall health as lighting up cigarettes. That’s staggering.
So what is the takeaway from all this? The most obvious, of course, is that you should stop fearing the sun and go outside, which is common sense.
But there’s another big point: We should stop blindly listening to “experts,” even if they claim to have science on their side.
This doesn’t mean that we should reject science or health professionals. What it does mean is that “settled science” is an oxymoron, and applying skepticism is important. There are implications here beyond longevity, with the current global warming hysteria the most obvious example.
Something repeated by a number of people doesn’t make it true. Reality doesn’t take votes. History has shown that it is often the rogue voice questioning the “settled science” who ends up being right.
Science is a process, not a set of answers carved in stone. When people raising valid questions and challenging official narratives are attacked and ostracized, something is wrong — and the skeptics just might be onto something.
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