Getting more sun may directly boost your body’s ability to fight disease, according to a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and published in the journal Nature Immunology.
In laboratory tests, researchers found that the immune cells responsible for seeking out and destroying pathogens, known as T cells, cannot function if the body’s vitamin D levels are too low.
“We have discovered that the first stage in the activation of a T cell involves vitamin D,” researcher Carsten Geisler said. “If the T cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood, they won’t even begin to mobilize.”
Vitamin D is naturally produced by the body upon exposure to sunlight, but widespread use of sunscreen and lessening time outdoors has contributed to widespread deficiency.
Because the body stops producing vitamin D on its own when levels get high enough, it is impossible to “overdose” on sunlight. The body produces enough vitamin D in only a fraction of the time it takes to burn.
“Scientists have known for a long time that vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and the vitamin has also been implicated in diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, but what we didn’t realize is how crucial vitamin D is for actually activating the immune system — which we know now,” Geisler said.
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