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Health - Forever Young In The Sun: The Blue Zones

by Jasper van Capelle in Health & Body , 20 augustus 2011

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
Length: 8 minutes

“Blue Zones” are the sunny regions on earth where most vital hundred-year olds live. The chances that you’ll live in health for longer than a century are twenty times higher in these regions than in the USA. What vital people over a hundred share: they live active outdoor lives in fields or gardens so they’re drenched in sun vitamin D. High vitamin D levels boost the immune system as well as the bones and muscles. The elderly look up to forty years younger and retain their muscle tone and teeth until the end.

People who leave the Blue Zone and take on a modern lifestyle elsewhere, lose the benefits and deteriorate as fast, and die as young, as all the others. The secret of eternal youth is in the right diet and in the active outdoors life in the sun. The four islands that we can learn something from are Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia, Nicoya (peninsular of Costa Rica) and Ikaria (Greece). In both Okinawa, the place with the highest density of habitants from before 1900, and Costa Rica people sunbathe daily as part of a ritual.

Vitamin D Shortage In The Netherlands

We live too far away from the equator and spend too much time behind glass. Our covered skin can’t absorb vitamin D inside, and in winter. Fortunately we can derive a little vitamin D from food. Fat fish, liver, eggs, cheese and butter are our main sources of vitamin D. To reach ideal levels however, we’d have to eat about seven herrings, fifty eggs or four kilos of cheese a day. Population research amongst the Rotterdam elderly showed that the more fat cheese they ate, the older they got. Cheese helps, but fifteen minutes at the solarium or taking high dosage Vitamin D supplements is more effective.

Holland is far from a Blue Zone. The Utrecht University rang the alarm bell this year: half of the newly born babies have a vitamin D deficit, which raises the chance on asthma and diabetes. It means mothers have a real deficit too. Dark-skinned people and covered up women always have a shortage, but a good GP would have alerted them and if they’re wise they’re taking supplements. The supplements specialists prescribe in the USA are much stronger than what the Dutch recommend.

The American standard is D3 of 5,000 International Units, aimed at ultimate health boost, while the Dutch D2 pills only have 400 IU, just enough to stay out of danger zone. D3 pills contain animal fats, which are better absorbed than the D2 pills on vegetable basis. To reach the best result, without smelling of herring all day, you’ll have to order your D3 pills in the States.

Staying Inside Is Bad For Your Health

Anglo-Saxon countries have started to eat low fat in the seventies and are now the fattest countries in the world. Over seventy percent of Americans is fat. The army, once so proud and butch, can’t find strong lean soldiers anymore. Police officers and fire fighters are fat; babies are born fat. The English are the fattest people of Europe. If someone’s too fat, it indirectly leads to vitamin D deficits. Fat people don’t go out much, don’t cycle much, don’t like to go to the beach, etc. In Japan, where overweight people hardly exist and companies get fined when their employees’ bellies get too big, people eat most fatty fish in the world and no sugar. Modern low fat foods lead to obesity and vitamin D deficits.

Because we’re staying inside behind glass and because we don’t move enough we get illnesses that didn’t occur before. Cancer, heart diseases and diabetes are modern diseases largely unknown to our ancestors. Old-age diabetes existed, sure, but now crap eating and sugar drinking kids get it. The pancreas works better with extra vitamin D, so people with a higher vitamin D level have thirty-five percent more chance on diabetes 2. Until about one hundred years ago we were outside for most of the time so by October our bodies would have stored large quantities of vitamin D.

All summer we’d been taking in about 10,000 IU per day. In winter we wouldn’t make much but we’d compensate a little through our diet. Fatty fish and butter are the only real sources. A good herring is excellent: good for about 1400 IU.

This means we’d suffer a slight shortage over winter but because we had a lot to begin with we stay healthy. There was more fish around then; salmon and eel swam in every river...
Every cell in your body needs vitamin D. Your immune system depends on it. Vitamin D is the most important vitamin; a sun-boosted immune system fights off infections.

Sunbathing is good against cancer, cardio-vascular diseases, lung and skin diseases, MS, the flu, diabetes and depression. The sun is aiding the mineral processes too, so that you take up calcium well for your bones and teeth. Even more importantly, vitamin D stimulates the production of testosterone. Testosterone makes you more muscled, more potent. Danish population research showed that Danes with high vitamin D levels in their blood were better in bed and had higher sperm counts.

Testosterone and the sun is what your muscles crave. A muscled body works like a fat-burning machine, so you can eat a lot without getting fat. With ten kilos more muscle you’d burn off an extra 700 calories a day. Sun bathing and power training are most effective in order to lose weight.

Sun, Illness And Latitude

In 1941 already it was discovered that there’s a link between a country’s latitude and the illnesses. In countries close to the equator, where people had high levels of vitamin D all year through, there was much less cancer, MS, asthma and psoriasis. The further away from the equator, less sunlight, the more cancer occurred.
In the USA colon cancer and prostate cancer occur in the North, and hardly in the South. Illnesses like tuberculosis and the flu also only flare up in darker regions. The flu always hits in winter and people with high vitamin D levels seem to be immune.

The Sun Prevents Most Diseases

The University of California thinks that sun-vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis, 77% of cancer victims, and more than half of all lung and heart diseases. At you’ll find the scientific basis.
Over 2009 49,000 men died in The Netherlands of one of the three main causes of death: cancer 23,000, heart 19,000, lung diseases 7,000. According to the Californian scientists almost 31,000 of the 49,000 deaths could be prevented. Skin cancer claimed 400, on the other hand though. Michael Holick, dermatologist and scientist at the Boston University has been studying vitamin D for forty years and is recognized as the foremost scientist in the world. He was ridiculed for years because of his claim that the sun is good for you, while dermatologists think the sun is the devil.

Holick thinks that diabetes 1, auto-immune diseases, MS and asthma with children is caused by a vitamin deficit with the mother while she was pregnant. He also shows in college that when a mother has low levels of vitamin D, she’s got a higher chance of complications during delivery, possibly even leading to Caesareans and pre-eclampsia.

If you’re interested in the 177 diseases that would benefit from sun exposure, check out

There a reason for the fact that in ancient history people close to the equator were black and the people further to the North were white. With a dark skin you’re most effectively protected against the sun. A dark skin needs tropical sun to create vitamin D. That’s hard in Northern Europe... When you’re white, what’s really an aberration, you can create vitamin in Northern Europe. In England and Ireland, with notoriously rainy summers, the population has the lightest skin type so that they can still create vitamin D in the afternoon. This is why this skin type burns so easily in Southern Europe.

Skin Cancer At The Costa: Sun-Screen Cream

At the beginning of the seventies cheap charter flights made easy holidaying in Southern Europe possible. Children could travel half price so the WHITE family, done without sun all year, burned to a crisp on holiday at the Costa del Sol. Dermatologists saw skin cancer rates increase dramatically and rang the alarm clock. What they didn’t say was that ninety-five percent of the skin cancers is not malignant, and that Melanoma (the dangerous type) almost exclusively hits people with skin type 1 (red hair, white skin and with more than fifty moles).

People who work indoors are at risk, people working outdoors are not. For the first time in history people were warned against the sun. Sun-screen blocks the sunlight and therefore also the creation of vitamin D. The skin has no chance to tan and create a natural protection. Responsible sun bathing means retreating to the shade in time. Dermatologist Hans van der Rhee was the organizer behind the freckle bus in 1989. Dressed in an alien outfit he drove past beaches to warn people that the sun was dangerous and it was better to stay out of it. He has turned around completely and has written a book on the positive effects of sunbathing.

Barometer Of Your Health

The 25(OH)D level is the best way to check your vitamin D level. The values can go from 1 to 100. Ten ng/ml is considered a shortage in Groningen but OK in Utrecht! A coastal guard in the Mediterranean region reaches 100 ng/ml. Experts agree that it’s best to have a minimum of 40ng/ml. To reach that level you’d have to take 80 IU per kilo of your bodyweight. So if you’re about eighty kilos this comes down to 6400 IU. The maximum your body receives in the sun is 10,000 IU per day. To reach this you’d have to spend half an hour naked in the sun around midday. Your skin needs a minimum of sun power three.



published May 2014       

published Jul 2016       


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