Let There be Light!

Research suggests that healthy Vitamin D levels lead to increased longevity, and that more than 50% of the population suffers from low levels. Whether you’re living with a chronic condition or simply looking to improve your wellbeing, we could all benefit from getting a little more Vitamin D!

Over the past year of the pandemic, the issue of low Vitamin D status seems to be a potential indicator of risk for a poor outcome or higher risk of infection with Sars-Cov2. One recent study showed that more than 80% of 200 Covid patients evaluated had low Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency is also more prevalent in African Americans, primarily due to the fact that skin pigmentation reduces vitamin D production in the skin.  

Sunlight has been “prescribed” for health as far back as the earliest Sanskrit text. Today researchers are still working to tease out cause and effect. Is it Vitamin D or different light wavelengths that impact something called photobiomodulation? Unless you are taking medications which increase light sensitivity (eg. tetracycline) or have a light sensitivity associated illness, most of us would agree that we feel much better after a day in the sunshine. 

One of my earliest interests in  Vitamin D and longevity arose several years ago, when I first listened to a RadioLab Podcast called “Bringing Gamma Back”. This story covered MIT researchers who discovered that a pulsed gamma wave light could reverse 50% of brain plaques in an Alzheimer’s mouse model in just one hour. Both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are protein misfolding disorders. And gamma light mimics the brain’s natural rhythm, which can help to reduce inflammation. It was an amazing story that got us looking deeper into light therapies in the treatment of various diseases including Parkinson’s.

Australian and French researchers collaborated in a study that started to look at how near infra-red light can help alleviate Parkinson's symptoms. Near infrared light is said to reduce pain, inflammation, heal wounds, and improve immunity. It is used in a variety of treatments and saunas

In the study, an infra-red light is implanted in the part of the brain that degenerates in PD.

This method is called deep brain stimulation. This is different from the electrical DBS stimulation that is a more common surgical therapy in Parkinson’s. The researchers don’t yet know how or why it works, but early studies have seemed promising. Some have even shown that it can slow the death of neurons.

My husband, John, who has PD, has been testing a prototype of a light "cap" from engineers at a local University. He wears the cap two times a day at different light frequencies and intensity levels, recording his observations on how it impacts his daily activities.

As for the general population, if more than 50% of people suffer from low levels of Vitamin D, what are the impacts? 

Over the past 100 years, we have moved from outside jobs working on farms to more indoor activities out of the daily sun. While there is no clear cut evidence that this is a specific cause of a specific condition like Parkinson’s, evidence supports the fact that healthy Vitamin D levels lead to increased longevity. Evidence is increasing on Vitamin D and breast cancer and Multiple Sclerosis. You can also see how low Vitamin D levels and the circadian clock are connected to sunlight on my blog post on sleep.It is interesting to see this subject come back around. Some of my reading interests if you are interested in digging in a lot deeper:

Getting more sunshine is easy and it’s free! So get outside on a daily basis and get some light!

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