Wednesday, 08 July 2020

Shedding light on sunlight

Steve Jones
Henley town hall

THE premise of this fast-paced and illuminating talk was that the sun can support and heal us.

Counter to commonly held views that sunlight is invariably dangerous, Professor Jones explored its benefits.

It seems that health inequalities exist between places with many hours of sunshine and places with cloudy weather.

Scotland, for example, has long been considered “the sick man of Europe” and it remains the case that life expectancy is lower in Scotland than in England and many other European countries.

The life expectancy gap cannot wholly be explained by exposure to sunlight, but clearly it is a significant factor.

Steve Jones did not deny the dangers of too much exposure to sun. But he explained the risks to health of insufficient levels of vitamin D — and the best source of vitamin D is sitting in the sun.

It appears that there is a modern resurgence of rickets — a disease which had been obliterated after the war — as children habitually spend less time out of doors.

Jones touched on how the sun features in popular culture, for example in the title of his talk, “Here Comes the Sun”, with its nod to the Beatles’ Abbey Road.

But his main purpose was to establish how vital sunlight is to health and happiness. This was a lively, good-humoured and persuasive talk. I wonder how many of the audience made the same “note to self” as I did; namely to get outside more.

Susan Creed

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