The first reason a day at the beach feels so good is maybe the first thing you’d guess: the sun.
Sun exposure is a huge deal. As meat-only diet advocate (yes, you read that right) Dr. Kevin Stock points out in this article [~13 minute read]
, humans evolved under pretty much constant sun exposure for millions of years. What are the chances that we don’t have a few built-in mechanisms for taking advantage of all that sunlight?
Dr. Stock mentions a few things our bodies produce when we’re in the sun that seem pretty important: melanin, vitamin D, nitric oxide, and serotonin.
Melanin is natural sunscreen — it absorbs and dissipates 99.9%+ of UV radiation — and humans just so happen to instinctively associate increased melanin (i.e., being tan) with health and attractiveness.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with pretty much every chronic illness there is, and studies show that basically anyone that doesn’t work outside is deficient. There is also evidence that taking it in pill form doesn’t really work, because there are other parts of the complex sun exposure process that work together, including some we probably don’t fully understand.
Nitric oxide lowers blood pressure and increases circulation (including specifically the kind of circulation you may or may not use a little blue pill to help stimulate).
Serotonin is called the happy chemical. Look up how pretty much any drug you take to make you “feel” better works, and chances are it will involve serotonin receptors. This is probably why you start to feel “good” almost immediately when you get to the beach, or any time you let yourself enjoy a sunny day.
Dr. Stock’s article is about all this, and about how sunscreen is probably preventing us from enjoying these benefits even when we do get out into the sun. Including this head scratcher: regular sun exposure actually decreases your risk of melanoma.
His advice, which I tend to subscribe to, is this: Get as much sun as you can without getting sunburned.
Caution: This is not a particularly well-written piece, which makes it an exception to the standards I generally adhere to for recommendations in this newsletter (i.e., they have to be startlingly awesome). This guy is passionate, but not exactly gunning for a Pulitzer. But he’s also good about linking to real research to support his claims. And in the end, I think that despite some rambling and a pretty terrible narrative structure, he ends up being fairly convincing on the other side of a debate most of us didn’t even realize had an other side. So check it out, and let me know whether you’re buying what he’s selling.