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The sun has been getting a bad rap for decades, with warnings about skin cancer and premature aging dominating the conversation. Consequently, many people have adopted a sun-avoidance mindset, opting for indoor activities or slathering on layers of sunscreen whenever they venture outside. While it’s essential to protect your skin, the pendulum has swung too far, leading to a deficiency in one of nature’s most potent sources of vitality: sunlight. In this article, we will explore the dangers of avoiding sunlight.

The truth is that avoiding sunlight can have serious health consequences beyond just the benefit of avoiding sunburn. We depended on the sun for our vitamin D requirement. Sunlight which contains ultraviolet rays synthesizes cholecalciferol in the skin. When sunlight hits the skin, it triggers the synthesis of vitamin D, which in turn helps the body absorb minerals from the diet, regulate the body’s production of serotonin and the immune system’s response to pathogens and infections, promote the production of antimicrobial peptides, and modulate inflammation.

The following are some of the dangers of avoiding sunlight:

Vitamin D Deficiency 

Sunlight exposure is crucial for the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D is essential for bone health, immune function, and overall well-being. Unfortunately, about 42% of the US population and more than 50% of the world’s population have insufficient vitamin D levels.

Research shows that vitamin D deficiency weakens the immune system and causes a multitude of issues such as growth retardation and rickets in children, precipitates and exacerbates osteopenia and osteoporosis, and increases the risk of fractures in adults

Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with an increased risk of common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, asthma, depression, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and other major health conditions. 

Vitamin D Deficiency

Increased Risk of Depression

Lack of sunlight affects the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin. Reduced sunlight exposure can lead to lower serotonin levels, which are linked to mood regulation. This can increase the risk of depression and a condition referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

During the darker months of the year, especially in regions with pronounced seasons, people may experience lower levels of sunlight exposure. This reduction in sunlight can disrupt the body’s internal clock and neurotransmitter levels, potentially leading to symptoms of depression such as low mood, fatigue, changes in appetite or weight, difficulty concentrating, and loss of interest in activities.

Exposure to sunlight helps regulate the body’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Therefore, ensuring adequate exposure to sunlight, particularly during the darker months, can be beneficial for mental health and may help reduce the risk of depression or alleviate symptoms of SAD.

This can be achieved through spending time outdoors during daylight hours, opening curtains or blinds to let natural light into indoor spaces, or using light therapy lamps designed to mimic sunlight when natural light is limited.

Impaired Immune Function

Another danger of avoiding sunlight is an impaired immune system. Sunlight exposure is essential for the body’s production of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in immune function. Sunlight exposure stimulates the production of white blood cells, which play a crucial role in fighting off infections, and pathogens, and modulating inflammation.

Risk of Rickets and Growth Retardation in Children & Adolescents

Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight can increase the risk of rickets in children. Rickets is a condition caused by a deficiency in vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate. This leads to softening and weakening of the bones. Rickets can result in skeletal deformities and growth delays if not addressed.

Prolonged avoidance of sunlight with severe vitamin D deficiency can stunt growth in children and adolescents. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone health and growth because it helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are necessary for bone development. Children and adolescents need to have regular exposure to sunlight and consume a balanced nutritious diet.

High Risk of Osteopenia, Osteoporosis, and Fractures

Avoiding sunlight can indirectly contribute to osteopenia and osteoporosis. Sunlight exposure is crucial for the body to produce vitamin D, which is essential for maintaining bone health as explained above. Without adequate vitamin D levels, bones get weakened, potentially increasing the risk of osteopenia (low bone density), osteoporosis (brittle bones), and fractures.

To prevent osteopenia, osteoporosis, and other skeletal issues, it’s essential to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin D through a combination of sunlight exposure, a balanced diet rich in vitamin D-containing foods (such as wild fatty fish and organic dairy products), supplementation (unless you sunbathe daily for at least 20 minutes), and weight-bearing exercise most days out of the week.

Increased Risk of Cardiovascular diseases

Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties and helps maintain the health of the arteries. Inflammation and arterial stiffness are linked to the development of atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

In addition, vitamin D helps regulate blood pressure by influencing the renin-angiotensin system, which plays a role in blood pressure regulation. Deficiency in vitamin D has been associated with higher blood pressure. Vitamin D receptors are also present in the heart muscle cells, suggesting a role for vitamin D in cardiac function. Deficiency in vitamin D may contribute to impaired heart muscle function and increase the risk of heart failure.

The combination of the important role of vitamin D in the cardiovascular system is why vitamin D deficiency has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.

Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases

Increased risk of chronic diseases is another danger of avoiding sunlight:

  • Increased risk of certain cancers: Some research suggests that low levels of vitamin D, which can result from insufficient sunlight exposure, may be associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, including breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.
  • Autoimmune diseases: Avoiding sunlight can potentially increase the risk of autoimmune diseases, primarily because vitamin D plays a significant role in modulating the immune system and maintaining its proper function. Several studies have suggested a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and the development of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be associated with an increased risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This is where the body’s cells don’t respond properly to insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which is also a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

Skin Problems

While excessive sun exposure can lead to skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer, moderate sunlight exposure is important for maintaining healthy skin, as it helps in the production of melanin and vitamin D.

Completely avoiding sunlight can lead to skin problems such as:

  • Psoriasis: Sunlight exposure is often beneficial for individuals with psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition characterized by patches of thick, red skin covered with silvery scales. Phototherapy, which involves exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, is a common treatment for psoriasis because UV light can slow the rapid growth of skin cells and reduce inflammation.
  • Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis): Sunlight exposure in moderation can help alleviate symptoms of eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin patches.
  • Acne: Sunlight exposure can improve acne symptoms by drying out the skin and reducing inflammation. However, prolonged sun exposure can potentially worsen acne in the long run.
Lack of Sunlight

Disruption of Circadian Rhythms

Avoiding sunlight, especially during the day, can disrupt the body’s internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, leading to sleep disturbances, daytime drowsiness, irregularities in sleep patterns and other bodily functions regulated by the circadian rhythm, and mood disturbances.

Sunlight exposure, particularly in the morning, helps regulate the body’s internal clock, which governs various physiological processes such as sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, and body temperature regulation. Therefore, it’s essential to prioritize exposure to natural light during the day – especially in the morning – and to incorporate sleep hygiene habits at night to help maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

This can involve spending time outdoors, opening curtains or blinds to let in sunlight, arranging indoor environments to maximize natural light exposure, and even incorporating light therapy – exposure to artificial light that mimics natural sunlight.

Increased Risk of Cancer Due to Sunscreen Use

Increased risks of cancer by continuous sunscreen use is another danger of avoiding sunlight. Sunscreen can be problematic since it blocks sun rays from going into your skin. Avoiding sunlight by using sunscreen increases cancer risks since the typical sunscreen has harmful chemicals. It has been found that sunscreen products have cancer-causing compounds. Health campaigns for skin cancer prevention have pushed the use of sunscreen for decades but you need to understand the truth about the sunscreen industry.


The current pervasive message to stay away from the sun is not only wrong but has brought about numerous negative effects on the population. The dangers of avoiding sunlight shouldn’t be dismissed because it can lead to serious health risks. By understanding the vital role of vitamin D in your body, you can harness the power of the sun for optimal health and well-being.

To a Fitter Healthier You,

Adriana Albritton

The Fitness Wellness Mentor

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