Vitamin D & cholesterol: when the sun helps our heart
The dangerous consequences of an unsafe sun exposure are well known, nevertheless the sunlight, triggering vitamin D production, has several healthy effects notably on bones and cardiovascular system. Epidemiological data show that population means of blood cholesterol concentrations increase with increasing distance from the Equator and reduction in duration of sunlight received and serum level of Vit. D decrease. High cholesterol levels are linked with cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks, stroke and arterial occlusions. Therefore, is expected that sun exposure can reduce the risk of heart disease activating vitamin D synthesis.
Considering the challenge of enhancing Vit. D intake of the population at risk merely with diet changes, to prevent unhealthy cholesterol peaks and raise Vitamin D level the options are the intensification of sunlight exposure or the intake of Vitamin D supplementation. Recent studies compared the effects of vitamin D supplementation and sun exposure on Vitamin D status and lipid profile of patients with Vitamin D deficiency to determine which option was more effective in reducing cardiovascular risk factors (i.e. cholesterol levels). The comparison on the experimental groups (one taking supplementation and one being exposed to sunlight on arms and face) showed a significant increased in Vitamin D. However only in the sun exposure cluster the total cholesterol decreased, on the other hand a significant increase of cholesterol levels in the vitamin D supplement group was noted that could lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular problems.
It seems that there is no substitute for the sun when looking for protection against heart disease and a safe sun exposure is the only option available. The beneficial effects of photo-relaxation could help reducing high pressure too.