The Healing Sun: Sunlight, Brittle Bones, and Osteoporosis

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The Healing Sun by Richard Hobday presents evidence showing an increase in disease with a decrease in sunlight exposure.  This article addresses the topic: Sunlight, Brittle Bones, and Osteoporosis.

How Sunlight Can Prevent Serious Health Problems

by Richard Hobday, taken from his book, The Healing Sun


Sunlight and Brittle Bones

The incidence of hip fracture shows a similar geographical distribution to vitamin D insufficiency in France, being higher in the east and centre of the country than in the sunny west and south. This is significant, because if there were a major problem with vitamin D status amongst a large section of the urban populations of developed countries, then one might reasonably expect to see a correspondingly high incidence of degenerative bone disease and hip fractures. Traditionally, sunlight deprivation has been linked with weak or brittle bones. One of the earliest references to this was made more than two thousand years ago by the Greek historian Herodotus (480-425 BC), who noted a marked difference between the remains of the Egyptian and Persian casualties at the site of battle of Pelusium which took place in 525 BC:

‘At the place where this battle was fought I saw a very odd thing, which the natives had told me about. The bones still lay there, those of the Persian dead separate from those of the Egyptian, just as they were originally divided, and I noticed that the skulls of the Persians were so thin that the merest touch with a pebble will pierce them, but those of the Egyptians, on the other hand, are so tough that it is hardly possible to break them with a blow from a stone. I was told, very credibly, that the reason was that the Egyptians shave their heads from childhood, so that the bone of the skull is indurated by the action of the sun — this is why they hardly ever go bald, baldness being rarer in Egypt than anywhere else. This, then, explains the thickness of their skulls; and the thinness of the Persian’s skulls rests upon a similar principle: namely that they have always worn felt skull-caps, to guard their heads from the sun.
Herodotus, ‘The Histories’


Osteoporosis, The ‘Silent Epidemic’

The bone disease osteoporosis is becoming so common in western countries as to be termed a ‘silent epidemic’. Osteoporosis affects one in three women over fifty in the UK and one in twelve men. Each year about 50,000 wrist fractures, 40,000 vertebral fractures and 60,000 hip fractures are diagnosed annually. Some 20 per cent of these hip fractures are followed by death, and those who survive often suffer permanent disability and dependency. More women die as a result of hip fractures than cancer of the cervix, ovary and womb combined. For reasons that are not fully understood, bone quality is deteriorating amongst a significant proportion of the older population, and low levels of vitamin D are implicated.

Typically, women begin to lose about one per cent of their bone mass each year from about the age of 30 to 35, and men from the age of about 55. When women reach the menopause this loss can accelerate because oestrogen, which helps their bones to absorb calcium, begins to decline. In some individuals bones become thin and honeycombed, and are prone to fractures which can occur spontaneously. The hip and wrist are most susceptible, and crumbling of the spine is common. Loss of height and spinal deformity — the so-called ‘Dowagers Hump’ — characterize the disease. Injuries caused by osteoporosis can be very difficult to cure, as by the time the disease is diagnosed or a fracture occurs the structure of the bone has altered to such an extent that as much as a third of bone mass may have been lost. The orthodox view is that the condition is largely irreversible, so treatment is aimed at preventing further bone loss, rather than rebuilding the remaining skeleton.

In men, osteoporosis can be caused by low levels of the hormone testosterone or other health problems, but nearly half the cases of male osteoporosis has no known cause. Where women are concerned, hormone replacement therapy is considered the most effective way to halt the decrease in bone mass which occurs after the menopause. Osteoporosis may have more to do with a weakened immune system or poor nutrition than hormonal imbalance. With advancing age the intestine becomes less efficient at absorbing calcium from the diet, and the British diet probably contains insufficient calcium to compensate for any persistent loss from the body. But, whatever the cause of osteoporosis, the disease places a tremendous strain on public resources because of the cost of operations and aftercare. In the UK, the National Health Service spends more than £900 million on the treatment of osteoporosis each year. With the populations of western countries ageing, osteoporosis seems likely to place an ever increasing burden on already overstretched healthcare systems. More than one million skeletal fractures occur annually in the United States as a result of osteoporosis, of which 300,000 are hip fractures. The World Health Organization estimate that worldwide the annual number of hip fractures could rise from 1.7 million in 1990 to 6.3 million by 2050.

At the present time, conventional medical thinking holds that lack of sunlight does not play a major role in the genesis of the disease. This is understandable given the current attitudes towards the sun, and the fact that no one seems to have examined to any great extent the relationship between osteoporosis and sunlight exposure. But lack of sunlight does seem to exacerbate the disease. It has been recognized for over two decades that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of hip fracture: some studies suggest that roughly 30 to 40 per cent of elderly patients with hip fractures are deficient or insufficient. More significantly, there is a pronounced seasonal variation both in bone density and in the incidence of hip fractures. Bone density is at its lowest during the winter, more hip fractures occur in the winter months than at other times of the year, and hip fractures become more common with increasing latitude. Most falls and fall-related injuries take place in the home, so this seasonal variation in fractures is not due to ice and snow causing falls.

There is evidence that the over seventies can benefit from taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. A study published in the Lancet in 1994 showed that women in homes for the elderly who received a daily dose of 800 IU of vitamin D and 1200 mg of calcium over an 18-month period had a reduced risk of fracture. Some 3,270 women took part, and there was a 25 per cent reduction in the number of fractures after three years of treatment compared to those women who did not receive the supplements. There have since been other studies which show that non-vertebral fractures in the elderly can be reduced by giving oral vitamin D and calcium supplements, but the relative contribution of vitamin D and calcium is not known.

While it is much more convenient for the elderly to take supplements rather than sunbathe, this dietary approach to the problem means that they are denied all of the other benefits that sunlight exposure could bring besides the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin. Of course, like modern hospitals, elderly people’s homes are not designed for sunbathing. The days of sun lounges, verandahs and porches are long gone, as is the solarium. In view of the osteoporosis epidemic, and the incidence of other degenerative diseases which may be linked to sunlight deprivation, designers should be encouraged to include them. Alternatively, sunlamps could be introduced as it is established that ultraviolet radiation from artificial sources will correct vitamin D deficiency in the elderly. However, given current concerns about skin cancer, ultraviolet radiation is unlikely to be adopted in favour of oral supplements for the foreseeable future.

As far as osteoporosis is concerned the conventional view is that the best way to prevent it in later life is to build up high bone mass during childhood and adolescence by taking regular exercise and getting plenty of vitamin D and calcium. Then, if calcium has been absorbed to a sufficient degree, the loss of bone mass associated with ageing starts from a level that is less likely to drop below the ‘fracture threshold’, at which point the risk of breaking bones increases. In practice, this means either getting out in the sun or taking oral supplements such as cod-liver oil, and engaging in strenuous activities during childhood. Yet parents are currently being actively discouraged from exposing infants to sunlight, and are being advised to put factor 15 sunscreen on their children whenever they go outside in the summer months. This may prevent sunburn, but not bone disorders in later life.




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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2024 at 11:42 pm and is filed under Books.

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Natural Vitamin D Osteoporosis Treatments said:

on February 8th, 2009

[…] The Healing Sun: Sunlight, Brittle Bones, and Osteoporosis No one seems to have examined to any great extent the relationship between osteoporosis and sunlight […] […]

Abiel Derizans said:

on February 26th, 2015

Dear Sirs.
I’m 82 and would like to know what’s the mimimal UV dose to benefit from its effect in healing or preventing osteoporose.
In advance, thanks for the feedback.


SunYogi Reply:

I recommend using the medical guidance at to determine vitamin D supplementation. This group of medical doctors is the foremost in this field. As per sunlight exposure, there is no limit to how much vitamin D the body can and should produce. The body will regulate itself. Shine on.


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