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A Zinc-less Zinc Regimen for Adults: Draft 4

vitamin d zinc vegetarian depression

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#1 databased

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 10:46 AM

Recap:
Zinc is one of the longest-studied nutrients that correlates with statistically significantly less acne. Some months ago, I discovered that around 200mg/day of zinc picolinate could, under some circumstances, make me dramatically acne-free for the first time ever. That led to a very long course of study, research and experiments.

For a megadose of zinc to affect acne dramatically, a good bet was that zinc is a cofactor in a reaction that affects acne. If you have a chemical reaction in the body like Zinc + X -> Y, then flooding the area with zinc will at least modestly increase the production of Y, since it makes it more likely that all the available "X" will get used up. After much study, I concluded that "Y" is actually zinc superoxide dismutase, or ZSOD. ZSOD comes with the usual labels people grope for in acne cures: anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, etc.

But then, what is the "X" that must be combined with zinc to make this reaction? If I have to overdose on zinc to get enough "Y", the implication is that what I'm really deficient in is "X". Like most people in America who eat meat, it's highly unlikely that there is any lack of zinc in my diet. If I could remedy my deficiency in "X", then I should be able to be acne-free without taking any zinc.

More study led me to conclude that "X" is melatonin. Melatonin slows cell division. It may decrease the production of androgens right in the skin. And perhaps most importantly, melatonin crosses the cell membrane and directly stimulates your DNA to produce the precursor to ZSOD, the molecule that zinc must combine with in order to create ZSOD.

Experiments with melatonin were immediately fruitful. By tending to my sleep cycle, I was soon able to be acne-free on less zinc, but still could not be acne-free reliably for long periods without any zinc supplement. Something was still missing.

The final piece of the puzzle was finding the fairly recent discoveries that show that, in modern life, we fail to effectively suppress daytime melatonin because we live in relatively dim indoor light. When you don't effectively suppress daytime melatonin by having your eyes in outdoor light all day long, two bad things happen. First, your gut thinks it's nighttime and you get carbohydrate malabsorption that keeps it from effectively digesting tryptophan (the fuel your body needs to make melatonin) and (tada!) zinc! Second, you get a "flattened" melatonin curve when you sleep at night -- your body simply doesn't produce the giant burst of melatonin at night that nature intended. The data fits this hypothesis nicely, including the most obvious points:
  • Do low zinc levels correlate with acne? Yes.
  • Do low tryptophan levels correlate with acne? Yes.
  • Do low ZSOD levels correlate with acne? Yes.
  • Can this explain why primitive tribes are acne-free? Yes.

This effect of daytime light is simply astounding. For example, I have long struggled with the ability to consume legumes. I bought into the standard advice that it's a problem of gut flora, if you eat them long enough your gut will adjust and digest them better without gas, etc. If I had a large Coke and a large burrito, the result was 100% predictable: great intestinal discomfort. However, I now know that was simply another problem of failing to suppress daytime melatonin. By living in outdoor light all day, I can slam down a Coke+burrito with zero intestinal discomfort, hardly any gas at all. I've repeated this experiment reliably several times, and outdoor light exposure is like a light switch (heh!) on my ability to digest legumes. I speculate that the growth in acid reflux disease (and the esophageal cancer it can lead to) is probably another result of living in dim light during the day that produces carbohydrate malabsorption.

The unfortunate thing is, although the pill-free cure for my acne is conceptually very simple, it's also very hard for modern people to accomplish. I had to buy a laptop with an extra-bright screen so I could work outdoors during the day -- most people have indoor jobs with no option of working outdoors. Just look at some the many ways we guarantee we won't have a natural melatonin cycle:
  • Work indoors all day. Indoor light simply does not produce the definitive OFF signal for pineal melatonin that outdoor light does. Even on a severely overcast day, outdoor light is much more intense (and also simply contains much more of the blue-green frequencies most effective at shutting down melatonin production).
  • Sleep in the midst of light pollution. Ironically, while bright light is needed to shut melatonin all the way off, very little light is needed to depress the nighttime surge of melatonin that you need to make lots of ZSOD. A night light, a street light shining into your bedroom. Trying to sleep when the sun is up. Flipping on a light when you go to the bathroom. All easy ways to destroy your nocturnal melatonin surge.
  • Go to bed at different times. Want to catch that late movie on the weekend? It's just like a form of jetlag -- your body's 24-hour clock just got bumped and may take days to settle back down to match your regular bedtime again.
  • Take in lots of caffeine. Caffeine will both depress your nocturnal melatonin peak and shorten the hours you sleep, both ways to become melatonin-deprived.
  • Vegetarianism. Without meat, it becomes more difficult to get enough tryptophan and zinc in the diet. If you combine that with eating high-fructose foods like apples, pears, etc. and living in dim light during the day to produce fructose malabsorption, that greatly raises the odds of acne. This is not to say you can't be a vegetarian and acne-free, but it is plausible that some vegetarians might have to take a couple of pills to get there.
  • Sunglasses, hats, travel in cars, etc. If you compare modern people to the completely acne-free primitive tribes that still exist, it's almost like we are comically trying to avoid getting any daylight in our eyes. We stay indoors all day. When we travel, we run from shaded building to shaded car (often with dark-tinted windows). We cover our eyes with dark glasses not just when the light is bright, but often just as a fashion statement when the light isn't even bright at all!
  • Depression. Depression and a screwed-up melatonin cycle often go hand-in-hand. But of course, acne itself is strongly correlated with depression. This is a real chicken-and-egg scenario. What causes what? The mess is more complicated by the fact that anti-depressants may tinker with the melatonin cycle for better or worse themselves. What is easy to say is that it would be better to not be depressed if you want a normal melatonin cycle (but that may be a complete tautology for some people!).

A Zinc-less Zinc Regimen

I probably can't think of all the inventive ways people destroy their melatonin cycle, but here's the basic remedy to achieve natural levels of melatonin and ZSOD:
  • Go to bed at the same time each night.
  • Sleep in total darkness. (Black out your bedroom, go to sleep when the sun goes down, wear a sleep mask, never turn on a light in the middle of the night, etc.).
  • Avoid caffeine, especially evening caffeine.
  • Spend all day in outdoor light without sunglasses or hats.
  • Sleep >= 8 hours. (This becomes easy when you stop megadosing caffeine and suppress your daytime melatonin.)

FAQ
That's too hard. I just can't...
Since I've been doing it for weeks now, I agree with you. I have the luxury of being able to choose to work outside, but it's a pain -- I essentially do office work out on my deck. It's a pain to say I can't go to that midnight movie. It's a pain to put tinfoil on the bedroom windows, wear a sleep mask, etc. It's a pain to open every shade in the house every morning and get my eyes outside ASAP. All I can say is, it's nothing like the pain of cringing when I have to go out in public with acne.
Can't I just take a pill?
Since there are periodic reports in the medical literature of people who hurt themselves by taking extreme doses of zinc (400mg/day, 800mg/day, even more) for their acne, I suspect you can just take a pill, but it could send you to the hospital eventually. I could argue in great detail why you cannot achieve the desired effect by taking melatonin orally, but the fact is many people have tried melatonin pills for acne and they just don't cure it. A melatonin pill before bedtime might help you sleep a little better and jumpstart a busted melatonin cycle, but you really won't need that if you effectively suppress your daytime melatonin. Put another way, if you need that bedtime melatonin pill to sleep, you probably still have a busted melatonin cycle.
Why me? How come my acne-free friends can...
I used to just throw my hands up at this and invoke the fairy dust of "it must be our genes". However, now that I have a detailed theory of the mechanism of acne that seems to me to hold water, I can say that there's a decent chance it's "you" in significant part because you are doing some things different than your friends. For example, in college, were most of my friends staying up until 4am and virtually never going outside like me? Hmmmm, not really. And once you induce carb malabsorption by screwing up your melatonin cycle, then suddenly all the Coke I love to drink does make some difference, and the formerly confusing fact that trying to eat "healthy" by eating fruit really didn't work is incredibly frustrating. The fact is, I suspect I can induce acne in most of the "acne-free" people you know: just keep them in dim light all day every day, keep them in bright light when they're trying to sleep, give them lots of high-fructose foods with every meal (Coke or apples -- your choice), and supply lots of caffeine. There may well be a genetic component to the "why me?" question, but it may be quite small compared the actual details of your acne-inducing lifestyle.
What about dairy?
I still don't know. The fact is, while living the outdoor lifestyle, I have been able to eat a suspicious amount of ice cream without the usually reliable cystic acne response, but I haven't pushed it. It is plausible that the mechanism for dairy producing acne is not beta cellulin, but simply sugar (lactose), and that once carbohydrate malabsorption is cured by suppressing daytime melatonin, dairy isn't a problem. But I do not yet feel certain of that.
Are you acne-free? What pills are you taking?
Every week that I stick with all the rules to maintain my melatonin cycle, I'm acne free. In fact, I sometimes cheat and have caffeine, or miss my bedtime. That sometimes results in a zit, but not always. I stopped taking zinc. I have stopped taking my normal complement of vitamins for a couple of weeks and stayed acne-free, but won't give them up for longer than that because I start getting arthritis.
Maybe it's just Vitamin D?
No. I've been Vitamin D replete for years (>50ng/dl) with no effect on acne. It's possible that if you're horribly Vitamin D deficient (many modern people are) you won't be able to absorb zinc well, compounding your problems. While working outdoors, I work in the shade with no direct sunlight on my skin (though as much view of sky in my eyes as possible). The only times my skin is in direct sunlight is when the sun is low in the sky (little UVB). So, despite spending massive hours outdoors, I haven't tanned at all so far this year. As always, any hope that Vitamin D is really a significant factor in curing acne has to overcome the hurdle of explaining why there's no epidemiological evidence that it varies strongly with latitude (Canadians should have way more acne than Texans if Vitamin D were crucial to the disease).
Can I do [...] instead?
Who knows? But if it's really important to you to get rid of the acne, set aside 2 weeks where you can strictly control your light exposure, and see whether this works. I say "set aside", because I find this regimen amazingly hard. The indoors couch is like a magnet for my butt; I initially had to literally keep a stopwatch outside to keep from fooling myself that I was spending more hours outside than I really was. If you can do it religiously for 2 weeks and it doesn't eliminate all new acne, then the heck with me and my theory. If it does, then you've gained some understanding of how you can control the disease and you can do your own experiments and make your own trade-offs.

#2 kiwi_kazoo

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Posted 26 July 2009 - 05:42 PM

you may be on to something. i know that when we go camping or backpacking i usually feel pretty good and i get the best sleep ever with wild and vivid dreams during the night even though we are sleeping in a tent on the ground. also i can not recall ever having any digestive issues when we are out in the woods, like i get at home at times. my skin also seems to cooperate better as well.

when we are backpacking, we definitely get into a rhythm with the sun. we get up when the sun comes up and usually go to sleep not long after it has set. so i can understand where you are coming from. unfortunately, we can't spend more of our time backpacking, but i wish we could.

#3 mikito

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 05:58 AM



Thank you for sharing your new research about zinc with us, again.

I would like to ask you, when you are saying that when you take zinc + melatonin, you are acne-free. Do you consider you are 100% cure/90%? Do you have abnormal keratinization, no plugs? Please, tell more details about your currently state.

#4 Swits

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 08:17 AM

very interesting read and i think you're definitely onto something

#5 MickeyJuice

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 09:05 AM

Interesting conjectures, thanks for sharing your research. It makes sense and interest me to do my own experimentation. I seem to fall into some of the categories that disrupt natural melatonin cycle. Unfortunately, there is very little I can do about my 12 hour work days. I could eat lunch outside.

#6 databased

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 10:58 AM

QUOTE (mikito @ Jul 27 2009, 05:58 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I would like to ask you, when you are saying that when you take zinc + melatonin.

Please re-read: I don't take zinc or melatonin.

QUOTE
Do you consider you are 100% cure/90%?

I can stop all new acne within 48 hours by changing my behavior. I can restart new acne within 48 hours by changing my behavior (e.g., bright light at night, dim light all day). I can avoid breaking limbs by not falling out of trees, but I'm not sure it's correct terminology to call that a "cure".

QUOTE
Do you have abnormal keratinization, no plugs?

My pores did not shrink, I still have blackheads, the overall state of my skin (oily/dry depending on location) is the same. Just no acne, no redness, etc.


#7 databased

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 11:20 AM

QUOTE (MickeyJuice @ Jul 27 2009, 09:05 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Unfortunately, there is very little I can do about my 12 hour work days. I could eat lunch outside.

Yeah, most people have a similar lack of control over their light exposure. But if you have control of your weekends, you could control your light exposure then and track your symptoms to see if that has an effect on the days immediately following. What is hard for primitive tribes to avoid (going to bed at the same time each night, sleeping in darkness, living in bright light), is incredibly hard for people living in civilization to achieve.

I definitely benefit by taking care of the nighttime half of the melatonin cycle. But I believe the lack of bright light during the day is what renders diet relevant to acne, which turns it into the whack-a-mole game that nobody can enjoy playing. OTOH, that helps explain why many people can't get rid of their acne, and why the symptoms seem to "sometimes" mysteriously get much better even though they haven't changed their diet.



#8 kk95

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 11:34 AM

Wait are you guys saying get extra light in the day, and no light at night?

#9 mikito

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 06:32 AM



If your theory about melatonin is correct, that would mean that all the farmers who works outside in the country, or any kind of job working outside (so many people), would be acne-free. Of course, if they sleep with no light at all, that it's not a very dificult condition.

I wish your theory was right, but I think it would be so too easy. Sorry about my english.

#10 databased

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 09:28 AM

QUOTE (kk95 @ Jul 27 2009, 11:34 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Wait are you guys saying get extra light in the day, and no light at night?

Yes, except, more precisely: get a full day of outdoor light exposure each day and sleep in total darkness.

A full day of outdoor light exposure alters digestion to cure or reduce carb malabsorption, which is what makes acne depend on diet. It also amplifies the nighttime surge of melatonin. Sleeping in total darkness all 8-9 hours ensures no light gets to the retina to prematurely shutdown your normal nighttime surge of melatonin. Once you have a normalized melatonin cycle, lots of ZSOD is produced each night, which immediately shuts down production of new acne.

#11 databased

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 09:51 AM

QUOTE (mikito @ Jul 28 2009, 06:32 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
If your theory about melatonin is correct, that would mean that all the farmers who works outside in the country, or any kind of job working outside (so many people), would be acne-free. Of course, if they sleep with no light at all, that it's not a very dificult condition.


No, that doesn't follow at all. In my country at least, farmers wear hats and sunglasses all day, and hours per typical day is spent avoiding as much sunlight as possible (sitting inside air-conditioned farm machinery, being inside barns lit by artificial light, etc.) Also, just about all the farmers in my country have electricity, so they have outdoor lights that leak into their bedrooms, they flip on a light to go to the bathroom, they stay up late in artificial light doing paperwork, etc. Also, during big parts of the year, the farmers in my country don't get anywhere near 9 hours sleep or even 8, and caffeine is a big part of their lifestyle.

Probably there is less incidence of acne among people who have outdoor jobs simply because that increases part of the factors that prevent acne, but I know of no studies that investigate this. No one has ever identified the melatonin cycle as the key factor for acne, so all studies involving light have focused on direct skin effects, which are nearly irrelevant IMHO.

QUOTE
I wish your theory was right, but I think it would be so too easy. Sorry about my english.

No, it's not easy at all. I doubt you can find a single person in your area who works outdoors all day without hat and sunglasses where sky light can directly hit their retinas, and who goes to bed at exactly the same time of day every day of the week, and who does not use caffeine, and who sleeps 9 hours per day in total darkness -- despite the enormous light pollution that exists in most civilized areas (and even in most bedrooms).

It is easy for Cordain's acne-free primitive tribes to do these things, and hard for them to do otherwise, really.


#12 and1

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 03:11 AM

have you ever gotten your blood analyzed, i mean 70% of industrialized populations are deficient in zinc, whereas deficiency is a matter of definition. furthermore there are doctors claiming that our overexposure to certain chemicals drains zinc out of our bodies at faster rates.

There is also a disease called hashimoto syndrome where people are deficient in zinc and vitamin b6 and need to supplement those two constantly, otherwise they become increasingly fatigued over time, up to the point where they experience CFS.

#13 mikito

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 05:12 AM



I would like to ask to Databased, if you notice improvement in acne, when you stay much time outside. ┬┐Why do you think that it,s because of the melatonin cycle, and not because of the benefits of the sun (necesary to produce vitamine D, antiseptic....?

Thank you in advanced for answering me.

#14 Naruto

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 12:20 PM

When I go on holiday and lay in the sun and swim in the sea all day my acne is not even noticeable after 3-4 days.
They constantly tell us not to stay out in the sun as it may cause skin cancer though.
However, my Uncle lives in the sun and was a fisherman at sea and He just celebrated His 60th and He looks awesome.
It's not that easy with kids and a mortgage to hop on a plane 4 times a year or so....
I live in London and there is NO light half the time and I work outside! dry.gif

#15 anonymousss1234

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 12:58 PM

this, to me, makes all the sense in the world.eusa_clap.gif would taking a zinc supplement, as well as being outdoors in the day and darkness at night, be more helpful?

#16 Q_P

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 11:44 AM

"When you don't effectively suppress daytime melatonin by having your eyes in outdoor light all day long, two bad things happen. First, your gut thinks it's nighttime and you get carbohydrate malabsorption that keeps it from effectively digesting tryptophan (the fuel your body needs to make melatonin) and (tada!) zinc!"

Could you please send me a link to wherever you found this information? I've noticed that my skin seems to get worse when I eat more fruit, and am trying to learn more about the causes of carb/fructose malabsorption.

Also- do you think that working under a sun lamp would have an effect on melatonin levels similar to the effect of working outside?

#17 databased

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 01:05 PM

QUOTE (Believe @ Jul 29 2009, 03:11 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
i mean 70% of industrialized populations are deficient in zinc

If you found that claim in any scientific peer-reviewed journal, I would be extremely grateful if you could produce a citation.


#18 databased

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 01:40 PM

QUOTE (QuirkyPixy @ Jul 30 2009, 11:44 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Could you please send me a link to wherever you found this information? I've noticed that my skin seems to get worse when I eat more fruit, and am trying to learn more about the causes of carb/fructose malabsorption.


Effects of dim or bright-light exposure during the daytime on human gastrointestinal activity.
Which suggests the cause is that you're stuffing your intestines with food when they believe it's time to be asleep.

QUOTE
Also- do you think that working under a sun lamp would have an effect on melatonin levels similar to the effect of working outside?


I have so far seen no commonly available artificial light source that provide both the intensity of outdoor light and the blue-green frequencies available in outdoor light. There is no magic in "natural" light, so I am sure it is possible to construct such lighting (especially since LEDs let you select from frequencies in the relevant range). However, once you do construct indoor lighting like that, you have to be careful about getting the intensity right -- the same frequencies best at suppressing melatonin are best at causing retinal damage. I have produced retinal lesions in this manner, though they healed up after I reduced the intensity.

The details of exactly what mix of light frequencies are best for suppressing melatonin are still very much a subject of active research. The current safest/best bet is to just get outdoor light in your eyes all day, though that is of course very hard when you have an indoor day job far from any windows. If I were stuck in that situation, I would experiment with things like:
  • Get an hour of outdoor light in the eyes immediately after waking, before work, and before breakfast.
  • Totally drop caffeine of all forms (it both depletes zinc and of course affects the sleep cycle).
  • Try to arrange lunch so I can eat outside, and have eyes in outdoor light as many minutes as possible before actually eating the food.
  • Likewise, try to get eyes into the outdoor light immediately after work and before eating.
  • Avoid/reduce carbs (especially high-fructose fruits and fizzy drinks) when there was no significant outdoor light exposure before the meal.
  • Make it a priority to get the all-day outdoor light exposure on weekends.
  • Carefully tend my sleep cycle to get the best nocturnal surge I can.
Tending the nighttime melatonin surge is also important, it's just that all-day outdoor exposure reduces or eliminates the ability of diet to affect my acne. Since it also amplifies the nocturnal surge, that makes it the biggest single effect on acne. I am hopeful (and see hopeful signs) that after an extended period of managing my day/night light exposure, the melatonin cycle then has enough "momentum" to sail through some number of days of screwed up day/night light exposure before getting to the point of producing acne again.


#19 databased

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 01:50 PM

QUOTE (Naruto @ Jul 29 2009, 12:20 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
They constantly tell us not to stay out in the sun as it may cause skin cancer though.

Just to be clear, it's the light in the eyes that matters to the melatonin cycle. I get my all-day outdoor light exposure sitting in the shade, with no direct sunlight on my skin.

QUOTE
I live in London and there is NO light half the time and I work outside! :dry:

I live in Seattle where the latitude and light conditions are somewhat similar (which helps give us one of the highest breast cancer rates in the country). AFAICT (I'll be more certain once our brief lovely sunny period is over), I was able to get the same benefit from outdoor light even on completely overcast days. Even when the day was "dark", just carrying my laptop outside showed me how much brighter that was than indoor light (and of course it has more of the right frequencies). Of course, I had to give up hats and sunglasses, and make an effort to have the light get to my eyes. Wearing a hat, sunglasses and having my head down in a book was not a good bet (I read on my back these days so the sky -- or clouds -- surrounds most of my field of vision).

#20 and1

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 02:08 PM

@databased:
Just think for a minute about what people are eating nowadays and you may too come to the conclusion that most people are extremely deficient in zinc. Compare traditional diets with the westernised diet.

I tried to find peer reviewd studies, but could not find one, though I can tell you that I have read it many times over that between 50 and 90 percent of the populus in industrialzed countries is deficient in zinc.

I would recommend to use books.google.com and you'll get some hints with the associated reasoning on the approximate levels of zinc deficiency, I googled for:

"zinc deficiency" population

In the short time I googled books.google.com I read in two books that one reason for the lack of data on this issue, is that there is no practical accepted indicator to use.




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