Sunbather
Photo by Elena Rudakova/Shutterstock.com

Research suggests humans are predisposed to be sun worshipers

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There’s nothing better than a weekend spent at the cottage, sprawled on the dock with a beer in hand, soaking in the gorgeous summer sun. 

However our love for sun goes much deeper than wanting to spend time on the dock. According to a new study, it’s our primitive instinct.

Studying how mice reacted when exposed to ultraviolet radiation, researchers learned that the brain releases beta-endorphin, a natural morphine-like painkiller that produces feelings of bliss. When this brain chemical was blocked—just as it is when you’re holed up indoors—the mice went into withdrawal.

Dr. David Fisher of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, a senior author of the study, understands the irony of this new research.  “It’s surprising that we’re genetically programmed to become addicted to something as dangerous as UV radiation, which is probably the most common carcinogen in the world.”

And although awareness of the harmful effects of the sun have been widespread for decades, this new research helps to explain the “relentless rise” of skin cancer.

In an interview with Postmedia, Fisher said “It’s an embarrassing fact that we probably know more about what causes skin cancers than almost any other form of cancer, and yet, even with the knowledge that UV radiation is the culprit, skin cancer rates continue to rise.”

Since UV radiation produces vitamin D, Fisher suggests taking supplements or eating a vitamin D-filled diet to simulate the effect. Foods like eggs, milk, yogurt, salmon, and tuna are all high in vitamin D.

Let’s be honest, though. Eating a tuna salad sandwich with a glass of milk just isn’t as satisfying as lounging on a Muskoka chair. Luckily the body can produce vitamin D even while you’re wearing sunscreen. So slather up with SPF and get for ready for the sunbather’s high.