Rubbing in the factor feel-good

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The Independent Online
LIZ HUNT

Medical Correspondent

A sunbather found dying on a nudist beach earlier this week died of natural causes from a pre-existing condition and not excessive exposure to the sun, a coroner ruled yesterday.

This may be a relief to sun-worshippers who will have read during the current heatwave headlines such as "Sunbather burns to death" and "Heatwave tragedy on a Sussex beach", instead of the usual "Phew! What a scorcher".

The sun has sunk so far in our estimation as a life-enhancing source of warmth, light and energy, that it is now regarded as public enemy number one.

We associate sunshine with pain and peeling, with wrinkles and unsightly blemishes, with skin cancers, cataracts - and death. It was easy to believe it was responsible for a man's demise on a lonely beach.

But human beings have an irresistible attraction to the sun as illustrated by the acres of white flesh on show this week. Sunbathers are not all masochists or irresponsible hedonists who ignore the health warnings; they seek the sun because it makes them feel good and is doing them some good too.

Pliny the Elder, the Roman writer and historian said: "Of all remedies, the sun is the greatest."

And when you tot up the physiological benefits, you can see why.

n "Feel-good" hormones known as endorphins surge after skin is exposed to ultra-violet light.

n Female and male hormone levels rise when the skin is exposed to sunshine so people feel sexier. Human conception rates tend to peak in early summer and the hotter the climate the earlier this happens.

n Sunlight also triggers the production of vitamin D3, a vital nutrient which aids calcium absorption by the bones.

The benefits of sunlight have been swamped by the bad press, and yet with precautions, it is everyone's interests to indulge in a little sun- worshipping.

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