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Chasing the Sun: The New Science of Sunlight and How it Shapes Our Bodies and Minds (Wellcome Collection) Paperback – International Edition, July 4, 2019
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- Publisher : Wellcome Collection; Main edition (July 4, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1781258333
- ISBN-13 : 978-1781258330
- Item Weight : 7.7 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.08 x 0.59 x 7.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,205,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Add to that the return is tedious because it is an international shipping item, but it was worth it to get it out of the house.
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Most of what she writes my intuition agrees with. However there is a difference between seeming intuitively right and claiming that science supports your statements. The findings of science sometimes turn out to be counter-intuitive. Who would have thought that a systematic review of studies on the efficacy of Vitamin D supplements in reducing the incidence of bone fractures would have concluded that the supplements had no significant effect?
The book makes some astounding claims. We are told, on the jacket, that it is ‘bursting with cutting-edge science’, and that ‘scientists are discovering how sunlight holds the secret to health, productivity and happiness in a 24/7 world’. Does it live up to these huge expectations?
Circadian rhythm is not a new idea. Fifty years ago it was known that blood levels of the hormone, cortisol, fluctuated during a twenty-four hour period. But Linda Geddes gives a very clear update of the science surrounding sunlight. She also provides several examples of how it has been applied to the benefit of, among others, hospital patients, school children and those receiving chemotherapy.
What concerns me, however, are the sweeping statements she makes. ‘Circadian disruption has been identified as a feature of every major ailment afflicting society today’ is one. The evidence offered is far from robust. Sometimes it takes the form of an association. ‘Late spring babies are at greater risk of anorexia and suicide in later life’. Sometimes it takes the form of studies on animals. Alfred Hess discovered that feeding rickety rats the skin of humans or calves, that had been irradiated with ultraviolet light, cured them of their rickets. That was in 1925. Rats are no longer fed human skin, thank God, and it is universally accepted that Vitamin D3 is formed in skin when 7-dehydrocholesterol absorbs UVB rays from sunlight.
Epidemiological studies provide further evidence. Some, examining the association between shift-work and cancer, have prompted the International Agency for Research on Cancer to warn, ‘Shift work that causes circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic’. However, the association is still disputed, as Linda Geddes admits.
What about those other scourges of our time, obesity and diabetes? There are claims that both are associated with sleep irregularity. Insulin sensitivity is known to decrease at night. But the sleep lab trial included in the book, measuring insulin, leptin and blood sugar levels, and blood pressure, involved only ten volunteers over a very limited period of time. We are still very far from large, randomised, placebo-controlled trials, and systematic reviews don’t seem plentiful either.
Does it matter that the science is not as conclusive as we might wish? Probably not. It is more prudent to be in harmony with our star than not. What we can do as individuals is limited. Many of the changes Linda Geddes mentions involve us acting collectively. Let’s hope we do.