There is a particular ritual, not peculiar to the British, (but one that
tends to be associated with the great British public) that once
witnessed can leave an indelible impression. This ritual is
unpredictable, often very short lived but climatic conditions this year
offered an unprecedented opportunity to witness it at it's finest.
It involves the general population stripping off their clothing in public. In males this will often include the entire upper body, thought the shyer female might only reveal long translucent white, recently depilated legs. Once disrobed, they adopt a horizontal posture and lie prostrate, eyes closed, typically on any available piece of grass, wall or garden bench, particularly around midday. Warning: It's not always a pretty sight.
This ritual can have some rather unfortunate side effects, that we rather unkindly as children would refer to as the "Pink Beasties". Locals were observed sporting various stripes of skin colour, ranging from white to pale pink through to iridescent red. A rather gruesome spectacle that revealed just who had taken the longest over their lunch break or spent too much time in the Pub Garden over the weekend.
Of course it's not just the Brits that love to sunbathe. Australians too, despite the warnings about skin cancer, can often be seen sunning themselves in similar fashion, though more commonly at the beach.
Why do we do it? Is it that we just like the sensations of the warm sun's rays on bare skin, or the desire to tan to look "healthy"? Or is it an unconscious cue for us to obtain the vitamin D we need for optimal neuro-muscular and brain health?
It has been estimated that around one third of the world's population has either a low level of vitamin D or an actual deficiency. Over 30% of all Australians are suspected of having insufficient vitamin D levels despite living in a sunny country.
Vitamin D deficiency used to manifest itself primarily as rickets, which is now seen far less commonly, but never-the-less still occurs.
We obtain our vitamin D primarily through a chemical reaction in the skin involving UVB light. We also obtain a small amount from dietary sources - remember cod liver oil?
We may see fewer people with rickets today, but did you know that low levels of vitamin D are associated with problems of:
- Poor balance
- Decreased muscle strength
- Low mood and depression
- Cognitive dysfunction
Research has found that having a lower level of Vitamin D is associated with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
There is a simple blood test available that can determine your level of vitamin D.
Knowing how to maintain your brain health and function is vital in today's busy and hectic world. So next time you pay a visit to your GP why not chat to them about getting your vitamin D level measured. We get our BP, our weight, cholesterol and wellness checks done, so why not ask your GP to include a "check up from the neck up" as well?
I'm delighted to advise that the 2nd Edition of Brain Fit is now available and includes a new chapter
that looks at how much sun exposure we really need for our vitamin D
levels, which are the best dietary sources of the vitamin and the
research examining the association of low levels of Vitamin D and risk
of depression, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
How are you ensuring you are getting sufficient vitamin D?
You can leave your comments below.
Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/19797316@N00/2496776912/">jan postma</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="http://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147">cc</a>