[00:00:48] Podcast Sponsors
[00:04:23] Guest and Episode Introduction
[00:08:00] The Impact of Light on Human Biology
[00:17:11] 10 Light Biohacking Tactics to Optimize Your Body and Brain
[00:17:38] Use Healthy Light Bulbs
[00:21:11] Get as Much Morning Sunlight as Possible
[00:22:36] Block Blue Light as Much as Possible at Night
[00:23:42] Avoid Artificial Light (Night and Morning)
[00:25:39] Use Iris Tech and Anti-Glare on All Your Monitors
[00:28:16] Use of Light Dims
[00:32:19] Install A Drift Box on Your TV
[00:33:06] Don't Overuse Sunglasses
[00:34:35] Use Photobiomodulation As Much as Possible
[00:37:07] Biohacking Tactics Summary
[00:38:04] Podcast Sponsors
[00:41:01] Matt's Interest in Light and Blue-light Blockers
[00:57:54] The Study of Light Exposure Throughout History
[01:12:22] The Horrors of Working and Living Under Fluorescent Lights
[01:18:48] How Sunlight Affects the Body
[01:26:38] Benefits of Sunlight
[01:31:12] The Circadian Rhythm
[01:49:27] Matt Maruca's Light Diet Protocol
[01:50:19] Sleep (And Wake) With the Sun
[02:03:58] Rise with The Sun and Bathe in The Morning Light, Living Outdoors
[02:17:06] Eating Seafoods And Drinking Clean Spring Water
[02:24:10] Bathe in Cold Water
[02:25:21] Avoid Man-Made Electromagnetic Radiation
[02:28:13] Cultivate Your Inner Light
[02:30:51] Final Note on This Episode
[02:33:05] End of Podcast
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.
Matt: I had spent an entire year trying to solve my health issues by focusing on the fuel going into my engines without considering that the issues I was having could be the result of dysfunction of the engines themselves.
Ben: It baffles me when people say, “Oh, the blue light blockers are for biohackers.” Those are for anybody who lives in a modern situation where you don't have control.
Matt: The thing that motivates me is the fact that so many people at young ages are sick.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
So, in today's episode, which I'll give you the intro on later on, the full meal deal spiel on later on, I do want to mention that there's a pretty big discussion on light and how light affects your biology. Light is one of those visible yet, sometimes, invisible variables that drastically affects things like your mitochondria, your ATP production, your sleep, even things like wound healing and skin health, and collagen, and elastin production. Well, light is just one of the hidden variables that I discussed in chapter 26. Chapter 26 is about an 80-page chapter in my new book, “Boundless: Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body, And Defy Aging.” So, if you dig what you hear, go to boundlessbook.com and you can get on the list for pre-order as soon as this book goes live. And, it's big. It's a 600-page book, jam-packed with the kind of stuff you're about to discover.
This podcast is brought to you by Kion Coffee. Talk about a punch in the adrenal glands for your vagus nerve. This coffee is absolutely the tastiest coffee. I can say that with confidence because we tested it against 49 other leading brands and proved that Kion Coffee is 100% free of mold and mycotoxins, has 10 times more oxidants than most of the leading brands, and most importantly, when we had a professional cupping team cup it, meaning taste it, it was ranked at the top of the list for actual flavor. It's got a little mix of cacao and berry, and I think it's got this nice floral aroma. When you get a bag of this, you give it a sniff, you are going to absolutely go to coffee heaven. So, try this stuff out. You get a 10% discount on Kion Coffee. All from sustainable farms, all ethically sourced. And, the discount code is BGF10. So, you go to getkion.com, getk-i-o-n.com and use discount code BGF10 on a bag of Kion Coffee or anything else at Kion.
This podcast is also brought to you by J-O-O-V-V, in case you don't know what that spells. It spells better testosterone, reduced pain and inflammation, better athletic performance, better blood flow. This is exactly what I wander into my office, stand in front of, pull my pants down, and work in a very intimate close relationship with for about 10 to 20 minutes a day, every single day, harnessing the power of near-infrared and red light. There is a host of research on this, not just put out by this company, not just biased research but actual research on photobiomodulation that is incredibly powerful, incredibly comprehensive. And, these new JOOVV devices, because they're low-EMF and high-power are the most efficient and safe way to get yourself exposed to near-infrared and red-light therapy. Not only that but they are going to give every one of my listeners who gets a JOOVV, whether the tiny little JOOVV Go you can take with you or the huge JOOVV Elite devices I have in my office, whatever you want, you get a nice little bonus gift when you use code BEN at checkout, when you go to joovv.com\ben. That's j-o-o-v-v\ben. Use code, Ben, at checkout.
Well, welcome to today's show and I hope you like it because it's a different format. So, here's the deal. All the shownotes are going to be over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sunlight, as in light from the Sun, S-U-N. bengreenfieldfitness.com/sunlight. And, in this episode, I'm personally going to take you on a little bit of a journey through, specifically, how sunlight makes you skinny and enhances metabolic function. And, when I say skinny, I mean it up-regulates fat burning capacity in a way that you might not really know about. And, I'm also going to talk about blue light and artificial light and how it does the opposite thing. And, I'm going to teach you 11 different ways to biohack light, in a way that can optimize your body and optimize your brain. But then, I'm going to turn things over to my friend, Matt Maruca, from RA Optics. And, I'm not going to be interviewing that. Instead, you're going to hear a little lecture, a little solosode from Matt himself that delves even more deeply into this topic. So, it's kind of like a two-for-one. It's like a double solosode, some thoughts from me and then some thoughts from Matt. And, a few times over the course of the next few months, I'm actually going to be giving you this model where instead of me interviewing a guest, I'm simply having somebody who I highly respect in a specific sector related to whatever fitness or sleep or gut function or whatever the case may be, and I'm going to say my thoughts on the matter and then turn things over to them to say their thoughts on the matter. And, it's basically like these really educational solosode style podcasts, rather than, say, a strict interview or Q&A session, per se.
So, I hope you like it. And, if you do or you don't, just let me know your thoughts and, also, your questions and your feedback on everything that we discuss over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sunlight.
I will also, of course, over on that URL, link over to Matt Maruca site. He makes the only blue-light blocking glasses that I personally use anymore. They're called RA Optics, R-A Optics. The amount of research that they put into this specific lens for blocking a wide variety of different types of light that can disrupt your circadian rhythm goes above and beyond what really any other blue-light-blocking company does. Specifically, because they use lenses that are far different than what most of the blue light blocking companies do, which is basically importing cheap blue light blocking glasses from China and then marking up the price, then selling them back to you. Instead, they actually, although they're not the least expensive blue light blockers on the market, have the most research put into the actual technology that they use in the lens to block specific frequencies and wavelengths, like blue and green light wavelengths, in a very targeted manner. So, they're called RA and you could just go straight to their website, google their websites, or go to raoptics.io and you can use code BEN10. That knocks 10% off any of their glasses, and I'll also put a link to all of that stuff in the shownotes.
Alright. So, I guess that's a pretty good segue into today's topic, light, because many people, including myself for a long period of time, considered light to just be light. I mean, after all, light is just a wave of energy that signifies the absence of darkness, right? And, the fact is light actually has a profound impact on human biology for better or for worse. The effects of light go far beyond its potential for, say, hacking sleep or enhancing recovery, depending how you use light; especially, when it comes to the potential for artificial light to damage overall wellness. And, the negative health impact of artificial light on endocrine function, on cellular function, has been well-researched and includes risks of cataracts, blindness, age-related macular degeneration and mitochondrial dysfunction, disrupted sleep and circadian biology cancer, heart disease, and a whole lot more.
For example, there are a host of recent studies that have shown artificial light to be directly correlated to breast cancer and to what's called circadian phase disruption and sleep disorders. There was one 2015 study that looked at 85 different scientific articles and showed that outdoor artificial lights, we're talking street lamps, outdoor porch lights, etc., are a risk factor for breast cancer and the indoor artificial light intensity elevated this risk. And, that same study also showed that exposure to artificial bright light during night time suppresses melatonin secretion and increases sleep latency, meaning how long it's going to take you to fall asleep. And, it also increases alertness at light at night, which could be beneficial if you're trying to keep yourself awake at night. But, of course, the last thing you want is going to bed, knowing you got to wake up at 5 a.m. and being super alert and not able to get to sleep.
And, a perfect example of the effects of modern light on human biology like this is the example of the LED, the light emitting diode. And, that's rapidly replacing now compact fluorescent bulbs because LEDs do not contain mercury like compact fluorescent bulbs. So, they're far more energy efficient and that's why LED lighting is now used in aviation and headlamps, and vehicle lighting, and advertising, and traffic signals, and cameras, and in general lighting, including monitors and the large area LED displays you see in stadiums, and decorative displays, and billboards, and dynamic message signs on freeways. But LEDs pose significant risks that go beyond just their environmental risk and toxicity hazards due to their high amount of arsenic and copper, and nickel, and lead, and iron, and silver used in the manufacturing of these things and contain inside of them.
LEDs cause severe retinal damage to the photoreceptors in your eye. They've been shown to induce necrosis or cell death in eye tissue. The American Medical Association put an official statement warning of the health and safety issues associated with white LED street lamps. And then, once you add in dimming and color-changing features and all these different lights that you can add to your house for your smart home, it gets much, much worse.
And, the reason for this is that LED lamps are form of digital lighting. So, if you look at incandescent lightbulbs, which is the only type of light bulb I use personally in my home, or halogen light bulbs, then, these are analog light sources. So, in a color changing systems, let's say a Philips Hue or any of these other systems you can put in a smart phone that allow you to adjust the dim or the color of LED lights, typically, there's three different LED sources: red, green, and blue. And, the intensity of those three sources has to be changed to achieve all those different colors. That feature must be controlled digitally. It's via a mechanism called pulse-width modulation. So, that means the LED's have to rapidly alternate between switching to full intensity and then switching off over and over again. And, that causes something called flicker.
Now, even though it appears to your naked eye the LEDs really aren't changing color or intensity that much, your retina perceives this flicker; whether or not you're consciously aware of it. And, you can observe this if you use a camera, not like an iPhone, but like an old-school camera. Or, you can buy a device called a flicker detector, for example, on Amazon to record an LED light in your house, or an LED backlit computer monitor. And, what happens is that you'll see the flicker in the light when you look at the video recording that you use. You only could do this with an iPhone if you switch to slow-motion video recording and then you can actually detect the flicker in the monitor of the light if you want to prove this to yourself.
Now, the problem ultimately is this: research has shown that that flicker can cause irreparable damage to the photoreceptor cells in your eye's retina. And, that results in headache and onset of poor eye sight, brain fog, lack of focus, sleep disruption, increased risk of cataracts, a whole host of issues.
Now, unfortunately, energy-saving lamps that aren't LED but that are rather compact fluorescent lamps, those cause similar issues and also can induce what's called oxidative stress damage that effects, not only the eyes, but the photoreceptors that are spread out all over the other areas of your skin, along with hormone damage and endocrine system disruption. So, there can be a big issue with a lot of these forms of modern lighting.
And, there's an entire field behind this known as photobiology. So, in the 1700s, there was a guy named Andreas Gartner who built the very first phototherapeutical device. And, this was a foldable hollow mirror that he would use to concentrate sunlight onto the aching joints of patients. And, there was a gold leaf on the mirror that absorbed UV radiation from sunlight, then, transformed that light into near infrared and red wavelengths. Very similar to those used nowadays by people who use infrared saunas or red-light panels, things like that to manage joint pain.
Now, in the 1800's, there was a book published, called “The Influence of the Blue Ray of Sunlight,” in which the author described the influence of Sun on animal and vegetable life and restoration of health from acute and chronic disorders to both humans and animals. Later on, there was another book that was published, called “Principles of Light and Color.” This was in the late 1870s and that reported on research that used different forms of colored light on different parts of the body to elicit different therapeutic results. Also, in the 1800s, there was an Indian physician who used chronotherapy in the form of indigo colored light as a treatment for gastric inflammation and colitis. There was a guy who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1903 who used red light to treat smallpox and other light spectrums to address chronic diseases like tuberculosis.
In the decades following that, phototherapy became more developed as this cutting-edge therapeutic intervention in modern medicine, culminating in a really great book, called “Light Therapeutics,” written by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and worked by the Swiss surgeon, named Dr. Oscar Bernard who used heliotherapy, or Sun therapy, during his surgeries.
So, in the 1800s, actually it's early 1700s, and up into the 1900s, people began to realize that you could do a lot with light. And now, we know that light can drastically affect metabolism. So, for example, you've probably heard of mTOR, the master fuel sensor in our cells that facilitates protein synthesis and growth while inhibiting the internal recycling of used or damaged cells. While plants and humans grow more in the summertime, not only because there's more food abundance, but also because there's more natural light too, and that activates mTOR. And, of course, your body also needs those periods of fasting, those periods of darkness, those periods where they're not in an anabolic state. And, the master fuel sensor in the winter and in darkness is a different system called the AMPK system. And, that optimizes energy efficiency and stimulates recycling of your cells. And, that happens during the night.
So, if you're at a constant stage of light exposure, like many folks are these days even when sleeping, your hormones and your metabolism shift toward constant mTOR activation, growth, and anabolism, which is generally associated when in excess with issues like cancer and shortened lifespan. So, by introducing periods of darkness by eliminating a lot of artificial light, by being careful about LED light exposure, by being careful about compact fluorescent lamp exposure, you actually can strike a balance between constant anabolism with zero cellular cleanup and smart catabolism with adequate time for natural cell turnover.
So, what I want to do now is delve into some of the nitty-gritty practical tactics that I recommend you implement if you want to biohack light and use this concept of photobiomodulation and light exposure to optimize your body and optimize your brain. So, here we go. And, I'm going to put plenty of shownotes for you over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sunlight, if you have trouble remembering or jotting some of this down.
So, the first thing to do is to make sure that you're using really healthy light bulbs. So, what you want to look at when you're choosing a light bulb is called the color rendering index or the CRI and that's the measurement of the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of various objects accurately in comparison with natural light.
So, like sunlight would be 100 and an incandescent light bulb would be 100, a candle would be 100 when it comes to their color rendering index or their CRI. If you are getting an LED bulb, you want to look for something with a very high CRI, something close to 97 or higher, which is going to be about the closest possible to natural light.
You also want to look at the color temperature, which is the temperature expression in what's called Kelvin or K. So, the Sun has Kelvin of about 5,500 and many LEDs have a color temperature of over 6,500, which is far greater than the temperature that you would find in natural sunlight. So, ideally you want an LED with a color temperature that would actually be below 3,000 and that's going to, at least, ensure you're not blasting yourself with way too much light.
Now, like I mentioned, I don't even use LED and I'll get to that in a second, but I would say that if you were going to use LED, not only looking at a good CRI and a low Kelvin temperature, but also whether or not that LED is biological LED. So, there's companies like Lighting Science, for example, or Wala, W-A-L-A, and they produce lines of biological bulbs that give off light in specific wavelengths that complement your circadian rhythm. So, Lighting Science makes a Sleepy Baby bulb and a nighttime bulb with lower levels of blue light that don't interfere with melatonin production. They have another bulb called the GoodDay bulb that actually produces a little bit more like a natural morning sunlight type of light.
The problem is, of course, as I alluded to earlier, LED lighting is still going to produce a high amount of flicker and also has a lot of heavy metals associated with its production and its presence in your home. So, in my home, even though it costs a little bit more and these are a little bit less energy-efficient, I use just old-school clear incandescent bulbs in all of the rooms in my house. And then, I use red incandescent bulbs in the bedroom and we actually light candles quite frequently and just use firelight when we can. And, we don't even turn on the lights as much as possible if the lights aren't completely necessary and simply let the house be relatively dim in the evening and lit by natural sunlight during the day. So, that's kind of what you want to look at when it comes to light bulbs.
Now, one thing you should know is that many incandescents are coated with white to make them more aesthetically pleasing, but you don't want that. You want that natural light. So, in my opinion, about 2,700 Kelvin incandescent light bulb or, and this would be very similar, a low-voltage halogen lamp would be the way to go. The only problem with halogen lamps is you got to have an AC DC power converter. And, I have a whole article about that that I'll put on the shownotes for this episode. But, in my opinion, even though it costs a little bit more, just low temperature incandescent bulbs are the way to go, along with just candles and natural light, which leads me to point number two.
In addition to choosing your lighting carefully, get as much morning sunlight as possible. Most of my clients and I was just talking with a guy about this the other day who was like, “Yeah, I go and hit it in the gym and I fasted state in the morning.” And, I told him, “You know what, most of the folks who I work with have greater success with a 30 to 60-minute morning fasted walk in the sunshine because you're getting natural circadian rhythm adjustments, you're getting negative ions, you're getting fresh air, low barrier to entry, you're avoiding the toxic lighting situation that you get into in a gym. And, it just works like gangbusters.” I have people who do that 365 days a year, spring, summer, winter, fall, morning fasted walk in the sunshine. You're getting UVA, you're getting UVB, you're getting near-infrared, you're getting far infrared. It's just an incredible way to begin your day.
And, interestingly, based on the research by my friend, Dr. Chris Masterjohn, it turns out that if you were deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, your photoreceptors become less sensitive and the strategy of getting adequate sunlight actually becomes less effective. So, I would say not only get out in the sun as much as possible, but also make sure that you're eating a diet rich in fatty acids that gives you a lot of vitamin A and a lot of vitamin D, specifically, because that's going to enhance the effects of the morning sun.
So, the third tip that I have for you is to ensure that you are, of course, blocking blue light as much as possible at night. Specifically, you want to look for the 400 to 485 nanometer wavelength of light that you're blocking. The RA glasses I mentioned earlier, that Matt, my guest on today's show, produces. That's an example of a lens that blocks that specific spectrum. Some other decent options would be Uvex and True Dark, and Amber. And, Felix Gray also makes some pretty decent glasses. Like I mentioned, I'm kind of married to RA right now because I just find that I do best with those. But, it baffles me when people say, “Oh, the blue light blockers are for biohackers.” No, those are for anybody who lives in a modern situation where you don't have control over what your mall uses. You got to go buy a T-shirt at night, go put on your blue light blocking glasses. Same for your computer monitors, same for your phones, etc.
So, tip number four for you is to avoid artificial light, not just in the night but in the morning too. Because a lot of times you'll hear people to tell you to avoid isolated and concentrated sources of blue light at night, but the problem is that particularly harsh and concentrated sources of blue light that you'll find in an artificial home and office lighting and bright screens in the morning, that's not a full spectrum of light that helps to regulate your circadian biology. If anything, if you can't get outdoors and you're under artificial lighting, get some of those like near-infrared and red-light panels that you could put in your office so you're getting some additional spectrums of light. But, ultimately, I think it's best to simulate the sunlight as much as possible, not only in the middle of the day or whatever but also in the morning. Be careful with high levels of blue light exposure, not just at night but during the rest of the day blue-light-blocking and try to pair that as much as possible with infrared light or just get out in the sunlight.
Like I mentioned earlier and alluded to, only use red light in the evening. So, red incandescent bulbs are a great option, especially in light fixtures near your bed or in your master bathroom.
And then, candles are really good option. Choose fragrance-free, natural, like natural palm or natural beeswax candles, because a lot of modern candles they've got paraffin and soy and toxic dyes and fragrances in them. But I'm a big fan of candles. And then, if you want to look this up on Google, look for “hidden smartphone red screen trick” on Google and it'll show you how to press a few buttons and switch your phone, or your device, to produce no blue light at all in the evenings. And, this is a really handy trick and some people look at my phone at night and be like, “Dude, how'd you do that? It looks like a candle.” And, it's very simple and I'll put a link to that in the shownotes as well, at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sunlight.
Okay. Tip number six for you is to put this software called Iris Tech on all your monitors. And, I interviewed this brilliant Bulgarian computer programmer on my podcast several years ago who invented this. You may have heard the computer software, F.lux, and a lot of folks are familiar with that. But Iris goes way beyond F.lux. It controls the brightness or the Kelvin of your monitor. It reduces the flicker. It allows you to adjust the text and font to be more eye-friendly. It optimizes screen pulsations to reduce the eye strain. It adjusts the brightness of your screen for wherever you happen to be in the world, based on the time. You can switch it to paper view, similar to Kindle. You can switch it to completely no blue light pure red light. Super-duper cool software. And, it has settings for pre-sleep, for reading, for movies, for anything. So, it even has these pop-up exercises to remind you to do things like exercise your eyes and take a stretch break. So, the Iris Tech software is really cool as well and I'll put a link to that in the shownotes also for you.
In addition to that, I personally use and encourage folks to use an anti-glare computer monitor because a lot of these fancy modern LCD monitors are not flicker-free. They're better than a lot of older computer monitors but they're not flicker-free. They started off by using what are called cold cathode fluorescent lamps as the backlit source for the monitor. And, in recent years, most manufacturers have shifted to using LEDs as the backlit for the monitor. So, all the issues with LED's you have exposure to if you're using a modern monitor. So, what I use is a monitor called the Eizo (E-I-Z-O) and my exact series that I use is the Flex Scan. So, that regulates brightness. It makes the flicker basically unperceivable and it doesn't have any drawbacks with compromising color stability, so you can still do things like graphic design or watching movies or whatever you want to do on your monitor. So, that one's called the Eizo Flex Scan. And, it even allows you to lower the factory preset color temperature on the monitor from 6,500 kelvins, which is really high. Remember, the sun is 5,500. Down to a more natural about 2,700 to 3,000. And then, that also has the paper mode feature which produces red wavelengths and reduces the amount of blue light from the monitor. And, it also has a non-glare screen. It dissipates reflective light, so it makes the screen a lot more eye-friendly, so don't get a lot of the brain fog. That one's called the Eizo Flex Scan.
And, I still have Iris Tech installed on all my computers. But for my main computer, I use that Eizo Flex Scan monitor.
A few other tips for you. In your bedroom, when you're traveling to hotels, when you're going to places where the TV's are producing lights and the clocks and the power strips and the computer chargers, you can get these little things called Light Dims. And, Light Dims are light-blocking tape or stickers, particularly for covering up irritating LEDs on electronics. And, you can get them in all sorts of different sizes. And, this is really important because even if you travel with the sleep mask, light-sensing photoreceptors that go far beyond the eyes are actually something that every human has. So, there are a number of different photoreceptors that we find on our skin. These are non-visual photoreceptors.
And, what that means is that on your skin, your subcutaneous fat, your central nervous system, and a host of other areas in your body, including your blood vessels, you actually have light-activated photoreceptors that respond to wavelengths of light. For example, a study at Johns Hopkins University relatively recently discovered something called melanopsin inside your blood vessels. And, melanopsin is one of the photoreceptors that's used in non-visual photoreception. They found that this light-sensitive protein, this melanopsin, can regulate the contraction and relaxation of your blood vessels and can be damaged by exposure to artificial blue light. It also, related to what I was saying earlier about soluble vitamins, it tends to be much weaker and more susceptible to that damage if you're deficient in fat-soluble vitamins like A and D. So, the worst thing you can do is eat a low-fat high-carb diet and get lots of exposure to artificial light if you're considering your circadian biology.
So, there was another recent finding that backed up the fact that it's not just light falling on your eyes that determines your circadian rhythm, but bright light on the skin. So, there's one study where they shone a bright light behind the knees and it had a very similar effect of shining light on the retina when it came to regulating the 24-hour circadian clock. One reason for that is that you have a lot of blood vessels near the skin in the back of your knee and so you've got a lot of melanopsin in those blood vessels that are non-visual photoreceptors that respond to that light.
There's another photoreceptor called neuropsin. And, that's primarily found in the retina, but it's also located on your skin. And, it's a light-sensitive pigment that helps to regulate your body's master circadian rhythm clock. It responds to UVA light. It responds to violet light. It responds to blue light and the red light. A little bit less than melanopsin but it still responds to those. And, that's not only why going out in the sunshine during the day can be so beneficial for regulating your circadian rhythm, but it's also why even if you're wearing a sleep mask, even if you have blackout curtains or whatever in your room, if parts of your skin other than your eyes are exposed to light, it does affect your circadian rhythm. So, it's something to think about. Not only should you expose as much skin as possible when you go out in the sun but you should have as little skin as possible exposed to artificial light and light sources when you're in your bedroom or areas of sleep.
And, in addition to that, I recommend these LED blocking little strips of tape that you can put on different forms of light in the bedroom to enhance sleep. And, it's interesting because a lot of these photoreceptors interact with hormone production and fat burning too. There is one study where researchers put fat cells under lamps that gave off visible light that simulated the sun and then they kept the other samples in the dark. And, after two weeks, the fat cell groups showed remarkable differences. There were fewer lipid droplets. Those are the organelles that store fat in the fat cells that were exposed to light compared to the cells that didn't get any light. So, that means exposure to adequate sunlight on both the skin and the eyes could actually induce the cells to store less fat. And, there are a number of compelling studies that show that artificial light, especially blue light, might have the exact opposite effect. So, it's really fascinating how this affects endocrine function and fat cells as well.
Okay. The next tip I have for you is if you have a television, and I have one of these on my television, install a Drift Box on it. It's very simple. It's a small box. You plug it into your TV. It removes a significant percentage of the blue light from the content that you watch on the TV and allows you to view your TV at night with a lot less artificial light exposure. And, it has settings where you get to decide how much blue you actually want to take out. You can remove up to 50% of the blue light in percentage increments of about 10%. So, that can be really effective if you're watching TV at night, even if you don't have blue light blocking glasses. If we watch our TV at night, which is pretty rare, anyways, I'll wear the blue light blocking glasses, but then, I've also got Drift Box on the TV as well.
Two more tips for you before we're going to move on and hear some things from Matt.
The first is to not overuse sunglasses. And, unless I'm trying to avoid snow blindness from a day of snowboarding or a windy beach with sand getting blown in my face or a day of boating, you'll rarely find me sporting sunglasses and the reason for that is that the retina in your eyes helps you to register how bright the light is that you're being exposed to. And then, that causes a secretion of specific hormones that keep you safe from the sun, specifically, the sunlight. It will stimulate your pituitary glands via the optic nerve to produce a hormone that triggers melanocytes in your skin to produce more melanin. And, that allows you to tan and offer some protection from excess UV radiation. And, when you wear sunglasses, less sunlight reaches your optic nerve so less protective melanin is made and you have a higher risk of a sunburn and more carcinogenicity and a less attractive tan.
So, as a matter of fact, one of the best things you can do for your skin and for protection from UV radiation, in addition, just not spending excess time in high amounts of UVA and UVB, is to avoid the use of sunglasses when you're out in the sun. And, the only exception that would be, of course, if you don't happen to have a set of blue light blocking glasses handy, there can be an advantage to wearing sunglasses at night, especially when you're driving because car headlamps are a notorious source of concentrated blue light from LED. So, if you have sunglasses, wear them at night, just like the song says.
My last tip for you would be to use this concept of photobiomodulation as much as you can. So, that involves using light of all wavelengths, like ultraviolet, red light, near-infrared, mid-infrared, far-infrared. Not only combat the effects of artificial light but also to elicit a lot of the cool research-proven health benefits for the whole body. So, for example, we know that red light has a host of research proving its efficacy for relieving inflammation, for balancing blood sugar, for lowering fat deposition, for improving macular degeneration, for assisting with melatonin production, enhancing kidney function, thyroid function, blood flow to the brain, building new stem cells.
There's an article that came out recently about how Olympic athletes are now using red light therapy devices as performance-enhancing aids to increase time to exhaustion. Typically, these are wavelengths of light in about the 750 nanometer to 1,200 nanometer range. So, we're talking about light panels you see people standing in front of, the photobiomodulation headsets that you can wear on your head, the use of near-infrared lights or far-infrared and red-light saunas. And, the cool thing is that far infrared, in particular, is absorbed by the water in your body, so it doesn't penetrate as deeply as near-infrared. And, it might not feel as good in your joints, but it actually is kind of cool because if you're well-hydrated, it actually can enhance the hydrating effects of the water itself and charge you up almost like a battery.
So, I'm a huge fan of not only full spectrum of sunlight but the use of some of these modern bio hacks. There's one called the Vie Light that you wear on your head. There's the JOOVV which is the red-light panel that you can stand in front of. And, these things work really well, but remember there's a Goldilocks effect when it comes to photobiomodulation. So, if you use photobiomodulation excess, you can actually produce excess free radicals because it amps up mitochondrial activity so much. So, for example, if I'm using Vie Light or a JOOVV light, I'm going 25 minutes every other day for something like the Vie Light, which is the one that you wear in your head to enhance the neural function. For my JOOVV light, I'm only using it 10 to 20 minutes per day with 24 hours in between, no more than that.
So, understand that just like sunlight exposure, there is a law of diminishing returns. And, more is not necessarily better, especially with sunlight if you're getting to the point of burning, or photobiomodulation if you're getting to the point of excess free radical production.
So, those are my big tips for you. Choose your lighting carefully, preferably incandescent. Get as much morning sun as you can. Use blue light blockers. They're not just for nerdy biohackers. Avoid artificial light not only at night but in the morning too. Use red light in the evening as much as you can. Install Iris Tech on all your monitors and use an anti-glare computer monitor like an Eizo Flex Scan. Use light-blocking tape or stickers to cover up any little blinking lights, especially in your bedroom. Put Drift Box on your TV. Don't overuse sunglasses. And then, look into the use of some of these photobiomodulation bio hacks, like an infrared sauna or a Vie Light, or a JOOVV.
So, I hope this has been helpful for you. And now, I'm going to turn things over to my friend, Matt. And again, everything he talks about, everything I've talked about, you'll find at bengreenfieldfitness.com/sunlight.
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Matt: Hello, hello, hello. My name is Matt Maruca and this evening, I'm going to be telling you a little bit about light.
So, first of all, I want to thank Ben for giving me the opportunity because for the last several years, I've been going through a lot in my personal health journey and the research that I've been doing to, basically, try to become the best version of myself and to try to understand life in a way that I can have an impact on the world and, basically, contribute my part to preventing people from having to go through the things that I went through at a young age.
So, to start off, I'd like to tell you a little bit about myself. Again, my name is Matt Maruca. I'm from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and I'm 20 years old at the moment.
So, when I was 14, what was happening was that I didn't feel good in general. And so, I began, when I was having some acne breakouts to look a little bit into what could possibly be keeping me from, I guess, feeling well and this particular, why I was having these breakouts on my skin. What happened was I learned about the paleo diet. So, I changed my diet and then the main issues I was having my whole life that I didn't think I could improve basically started to disappear. So, these were daily headaches. These were gut issues. And, these were seasonal dust and pollen allergies. And, by the way, just so you know, I've been putting this work together for a long time, putting together some notes and things and I realized that if I were to come on here and, let's say, give you a long reading of something that I had written, it wouldn't be so interesting. So, I decided I wanted to just come on and sort of show you who I really am and give you a little bit of, let's say, entertainment, a little bit of life, right?
So, I'm just going to go through, almost as if I'm interviewing myself and having a conversation with myself. So, I hope you enjoy this and buckle in for the ride. We're going to learn a lot about light this evening.
So, as I was saying, I was absolutely shocked when I experienced that a diet that was designed or, at least intended, to improve my acne, improved all these other things which my entire life I was convinced were genetic and therefore could not be altered. Now, one of the people I was learning from was Ben, another person was Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, these Paleo diet authors. And, I was reading about this new science called epigenetics. Of course, anyone who's listening this probably has heard about epigenetics by now, but at that time, my understanding was that epigenetics basically meant that we weren't fixed by what our genes contained. Rather, we had the ability to and still have the ability to change the outcome within our biology, based on the inputs and the decisions that we make. And at this time, the impression that I had was that the main input we could alter was diet.
So, I went from here, thinking how could I alter my diet to improve my biology. And, because I was still having some symptoms of allergies, I went on to an autoimmune paleo diet. And, I had some improvement but I wanted to go further, so I went on to a gut in psychology syndrome also known as the gaps diet of basically cooked meats and bone broth and some well-cooked vegetables. And, contrary to what is very popular today with the carnivore diet, I actually wasn't feeling very well. I felt like I was basically starving. And, even though I did this for weeks and weeks and weeks, and I had been tailoring, tailoring, tailoring every little bit, I still wasn't improving. And so, essentially, things were, how can I say, very challenging for me because I thought I had come to the end of the road, that this was the absolute best diet that could possibly be done for health. And, I wasn't getting better.
So, I started to blame things on myself and I was having tremendous carbohydrate cravings at that time. And so, what I would do, which was not good, I would give in to these cravings, into these temptations, and I would basically go and eat something that I wasn't supposed to. So, something that was just strictly forbidden from the diet. And, these diets, mind you, were, and many people who were on these autoimmune diets know that there's not really much room for error. The idea is that if you consume one of these foods that trigger your immune system, you've sort of undone a lot of your hard work. So, I would do this and then I would basically go down a path of binging. And then, many people have probably been down this road before, self-guilting, and just misery. And, I was 15 years old at this time now, going through this, thinking that I had basically figured it out and that all I had to do was tweak things a little bit. But then, my energy levels were fluctuating like crazy. I really had no idea what to do.
I continued to this kind of going on and on and on in this cycle. At a certain point, actually, it was so bad where, because I was in ketosis, I had a taste of keto breath, of acetone in my mouth. And, I actually thought that I had bad breath. And so, I was already isolated from the world, not talking to my parents very much about what I was doing. It was crazy enough to be doing a paleo diet, much less normal to be doing a bone broth and meat only diet, to attempt to heal serious gut issues and things that people literally wouldn't understand.
So, there was a period where I didn't even, I was afraid to even talk to people face to face because I thought, “Oh, my gosh. My breath smells,” and it's just people are. I'm already crazy enough. This is a mess. I don't know what I'm doing. It was really, really isolating. So, I became very, very, I'd say, depressed and isolated at this time when I was 15, just about six to eight months into this, let's say, health experiment when I had decided to take things in my own hands.
And at this point, I learned about something called thermogenesis, which many of you may have heard of. Ben is a huge proponent of it today. So, what I had heard at that time was that someone could basically go into a bath of freezing water and burn off their own fat as free heat. And, to me, this was a very, let's say, enticing and a very interesting idea because, well, it seemed like a superpower.
Also, one of the main reasons it was interesting to me was because I had read that it could help improve, and even eliminate, carbohydrate cravings. And, the reason why was something I had not really considered or heard of in a long time since biology class, basically, which was that this cold thermogenesis would improve our mitochondria.
And, a little interesting story to share is that in Biology in ninth grade, which actually was only about a year and a half before I was in this process, I had asked my biology teacher, “What makes the electrons flow across the electron transport chain in the mitochondria?” He said, “They just do.”
So, I know Ben keeps his kids out of school for a smart reason. And, again, it shows these teachers aren't necessarily interested in searching deeper education and whatnot. This specific teacher drank about a liter of coffee per day, had this mug I'll never forget. And, it just wasn't an educational environment, let's say. I was at one of the best public schools in Pennsylvania. So, yeah, he said they just do, which is really interesting preface to what I started to learn about later on, just spoiler alert. It's the electromagnetic pull of oxygen on the end of the electron transport chain in the mitochondria that pulls the electrons, donated by the hydrogens from the food we eat. That's what causes the electrons to flow, which basically powers life, which we'll totally get into at one point as I work through this.
So, basically, I began to read about mitochondria and learn that they're the cellular engines which power all of our functions and each cell contains thousands of them.
I also learned that there's a researcher from my home city, Philadelphia, who actually I went and met, in Dr. Douglas Wallace, who's been winning awards for research, groundbreaking research, showing that the common thread among all the modern chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autism, Alzheimer's, and cancer, is that in these diseases the afflicted tissues have dysfunctional mitochondria. In other words, the mitochondria, the cellular engines which power the cells, are not functioning optimally and, therefore, the cells don't have enough energy to carry out all of their functions.
You can think of it sort of like a government that has a certain amount of money to fund its programs from taxpayers, but then, let's say, there's a cut in taxes or there's a loss in money somehow, the government can no longer fund certain programs. And, therefore, it has to defund them. And, in our biology, the thing is that which programs are you going to defund, your heart? No. Your lungs? No. Your liver? Probably, not. Pretty much every function we have, we consider to be essential in some way. Wound-healing? Of course. So, everything is very energy levels throughout the day, yeah, you could probably get rid of those first but then you're not going to have as good of a chance of survival and life, sure, isn't going to be as fun.
So, there's really no win in this situation when we have sub-optimal mitochondria. So, basically, this is what equates to chronic disease when the mitochondria. When the brain is dysfunctional, we have Alzheimer's when the mitochondria. Or, if it's in a young child, due to poor mitochondria inherited from a mother, we have autism. Cancer, depending on the tissue. Obesity, when it's in the brain in the centers that regulate metabolism. Diabetes, when it's in, for example, the pancreas or, again, the metabolic centers of the brain. Heart disease, when it's in the cardiovascular system; and, so on and so on.
People can Google search Dr. Doug Wallace's great videos. He's a really smart guy. And, it's amazing.
So, what I was learning at this point made something extremely clear, which was that I had spent an entire year trying to solve my health issues by focusing on the fuel going into my engines without considering that the issues I was having could be the result of dysfunction of the engines themselves. And, yes, obviously, I didn't know any better; but, now I did. And, I learned that the function of the cellular engines, the mitochondria, is not controlled primarily by food which is the input, but by other factors in the environment, bump at a bomb, primarily, light. And, this is where it gets interesting. Light, electromagnetic fields, such as the Earth's magnetic field, and also, non-native man-made electromagnetic fields can affect the system negatively. Also, temperature, called thermogenesis, for example. The benefits of cold bathing. And, contrary to common belief, poor diet was likely not the root cause of the modern chronic disease epidemic; but rather, all of this research came to imply to me, it was the transition to an indoor lifestyle, which deprived us of the light which drives our metabolic function.
The newfound understanding was, how shall I say, enlightening? It explained a lot of things. For example, why some people could thrive on certain diets and others wouldn't. Why there's such a discrepancy in the consumption of diets. Some people thrive on raw vegan diets, although not many. But, I know some, and it's pretty impressive. Some people thrive on the Western standard diet, I mean, maybe, not for long. But, the diet only perspective couldn't explain why my friends were thriving, at least, doing pretty well on the Western diet while I was struggling a lot and very, very sensitive to these things.
So, the engine, the mitochondrial perspective, actually, was able to explain these things because my engines, my mitochondria were damaged a lot more than my friends. And, this could be attributed to a large number of things. Among these, that I was conceived in vitro, meaning in other words in a petri dish. And, the reason why was because my mom had trouble getting pregnant which implied that her mitochondria, the mitochondria in her eggs were not all very good, which means that I was, let's say, born at a disadvantage. Also, I was born a cesarean section. I didn't get all the gut bacteria which is a big stressor people know in this community on the immune system and whatnot. And so, therefore, I was also at a disadvantage there. That's a big stressor on the body which affects all systems.
And then, I, for whatever reason, well, because of a vegan influence of a babysitter and also terrible experience with non-grass-fed, so factory-farmed hot dogs and meat, basically making me disgusted and wanting to vomit. So, I became a vegetarian for many years from age 6-7 until, basically, 13, 14 when I really got into the Paleo diet. So, it was a perfect storm for having. And, of course, I was always looking at screen devices, but so were my peers. So, I had a few things that sort of sped up the process. But, for this, I'm tremendously grateful because I stand here today, 20 years old, far from completely healed and perfect, but making tremendous strides and learning a lot.
So, to close off this little introductory part, I have a quote from Dr. John Ott, who we'll talk about a little bit later on. He was a key light researcher of the 1960s and he basically put it perfectly when he wrote, “A car's engine requires fuel, oxygen, and a spark to create internal combustion which makes the car run.” Again, just to be clear, fuel is a hydrogen-based fuel source that reacts with oxygen from the air to make water. And, that reaction releases a lot of energy; but, there needs to be a spark to break the hydrogen's free from their present configurations, allowing them to begin to react from oxygens from the air. And, each time a hydrogen reacts with oxygen, it releases more energy, which is basically serving as another spark to continue the reaction. And, this is how life works as well, which we can get into as well. I think we will. I wasn't going to touch on that, but I think we will because it's very relevant here.
So, “The human body,” he says, “also requires fuel in the form of food, oxygen, and a spark in the form of light to ignite the process of metabolism. If the ignition system of the car is not functioning properly, fuel additives will not solve the problem. The same is true in the human body. Vitamins will not solve the problems caused by a lack the appropriate wavelengths of light necessary to create complete metabolism. There is no question in my mind that the visible portion of the spectrum as well as certain portions beyond, especially the ultraviolet, act as the ignition system for all human biologic functions.”
So, what's happening today is that we have a society of very, very sick people, lots of chronic diseases, and, in particular, the thing that motivates me is the fact that so many people at young ages are sick. Peers of mine are depressed, anxious, committing suicide, no one who I've actually known personally, but lots of people in my age cohort. In fact, suicide, apparently, there's recent articles and statistics showing that it overtook car crashes as the number one cause of death in teens. And, it doesn't have to be like this and this is why I'm passionate about this. I don't want people to be struggling and suffering the way I was. So, what I learned is that mitochondrial dysfunction seems to be at the core of this disease epidemic we're facing and light is at the core of how to optimize mitochondrial function.
So, getting into it. I'll tell you a little bit about light exposures throughout history.
So, basically, several ancient human societies knew about the life-giving properties of sunlight. For example, after the Battle of Pelusium in Egypt, which is a great battle between the Egyptians and the Persians when the Persians, basically the first Persian Empire, took over Egypt and the Pharaohs became Persian emperors. So, the Greek historian, Herodotus, was surveying what he described as a sea of skulls and noted that those of the Egyptians were distinguishable from the Persians by their superior hardness, he ascribed to the Egyptians shaving of their heads from infancy, while the Persians would cover theirs with cloths or with linen.
The Egyptian Pharaoh, Akhenaten, practiced the first nearly monotheistic religion in known history, effectively eliminating worship of other gods and solely worshiping the Aten, which was the disk of the sun. He built a city at Amarna with temples built for worship of the sun. After his death, however, his monuments were hidden, his statues were destroyed, and his name was excluded from the kings' lists. For me, this is some sign of foul play. And, I was even told by a person I met at a recent biohacking event in Toronto, who was an expert and studied this in Egypt, that there was a reason why this was done, that there was forces, you could say, and this sounds like a conspiracy theory, because it sort of is in some sense, although there's some evidence behind it, this one source of mine, but basically, that the higher-ups didn't want people to know about the benefits of sunlight. And, this seems to be a recurring theme throughout history. And, the reason why is because people who are, let's say, enlightened are not as easy to manage and control. And, it doesn't mean that the people who were running society don't know what they're doing because they very well could, but this was just the case. So, it's cool that people can at least learn about this.
Also, in Greece, Hippocrates, who is considered the father of medicine, prescribed sunbathing for a wider variety of illnesses and he even had a large solarium for exposing patients to large amounts of sunlight as part of their therapy in his health facility on the island of Kos.
Over 1200 years ago in ancient Greece, the philosopher Lucius Flavius Philostratus wrote about trainers encouraging Olympic athletes, the first Olympians, let's say, to consume large amounts of fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, all rich in of course vitamin D3, as well as tons of other minerals and healthy fats and whatnot in order to enhance their physical performance. And, he also suggested that these–or he wrote that it was commonly practiced that these ancient Olympians would use heliotherapy to improve the health of their muscles. So, this was actually the state of sunlight way back, back when.
Now, many people have heard about the macrobiotic diet. I'm not even sure if it's popular anymore. But one of the founders, let's say, his name is Christoph Hufeland, wrote in his book called “Macrobiotics”–this was in 1796, one of the first references in modern literature to the effects of sunlight on biology. He wrote, “Even the human being becomes pale, flabby, and apathetic as a result of being deprived of light, finally losing all his vital energy, as many a sad example of a person sequestered in a dark dungeon over a long period of time has demonstrated.” Very interesting to consider this.
Now, even more popular, in her 1859 notes on hospitals, Florence Nightingale wrote, “Direct sunlight, not only daylight, is necessary for speedy recovery, except, perhaps, in certain ophthalmic and a small number of other cases. Instances could be given, almost endless, where, in dark wards or in wards with a northern aspect, even when thoroughly warmed, or in wards with borrowed light, even when thoroughly ventilated, the sick could not by any means be made speedily to recover. All hospital buildings in this climate should be erected so that as great a surface as possible should receive direct sunlight, a rule which has been observed in several of our best hospitals, but, I am sorry to say, passed over in some of those most recently constructed. Window-blinds can always moderate the light of a light ward, but the gloom of a dark ward is irremediable. The escape of heat may be diminished by plate or double glass. But while we can generate warmth, we cannot generate daylight or the purifying and curative effect of the sun's rays.”
So, also interesting, at the time in the late 1800s now during the industrial revolution in England and in North America, 90%, nearly 90% of all kids had some manifestation of rickets, which is now known to be the result of a lack of vitamin D preventing the body from properly utilizing minerals such as calcium. So, physicians found that exposure to direct sunlight could improve rickets. They didn't know why at the time, and they began exposing kids with tremendously great results. Another huge breakthrough in 1903 came when a Danish physicist, or physician I should say, Niels Finsen, discovered that ultraviolet light from the sun kills the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis of the skin called lupus vulgaris. And so, using, let's say, devices that would concentrate sunlight directly onto the faces of patients, or in the winter, artificial ultraviolet lamps, which I do not claim to be as effective, however, they seem to work here in this case at least, to cure people of this fatal disease. And in 1903, for this finding, he became the first Scandinavian to be awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine.
So, inspired by Niels Finsen, a Swiss doctor named Auguste Rollier opened clinics in the Alps where he practiced heliotherapy, which is the use of sunlight to improve medical conditions and physical health. So, using sunlight, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of patients came to his clinics. There were dozens of them throughout the Alps, and he basically successfully treated all kinds of diseases including rickets, tuberculosis, wounds, and so on and so on. And even in World War I, Germans built heliotherapy clinics where they could treat the wounds of their patients with the sun. So, this was very well-known and very popular at this time.
Now, what's really interesting is that around this time in the early 1900s, these discoveries led to what we could call a tremendous craze about light, like a really serious craze where people basically started just sunbathing like crazy. In fact, it's hard to fathom based on our current beliefs about sun, but in the media, it was absolutely plastered everywhere that people should get more and more and more sun. In fact, it was a public health goal. It was recommended by medical journals. It was recommended that babies be exposed to sunlight. Also, there were new–for example, in London, a public park was designated specifically for sunbathing. The media was full of reports of the benefits of tans. And even in Manhattan, roof sunbathing resorts were opened. Even certain trains were outfitted with UV transmitting windows so that people could stand while they were in transit.
Also, this specific happening led to the introduction of the two-piece bathing suit for women, and also in generally shorter and more, let's say, leg revealing bathing suits for men. Interestingly enough, at the time, several companies including General Electric and Westinghouse began to produce and strongly advertised ultraviolet lamps. Now, here's the interesting thing. The seesaw was very far to one side at this time. These lamps were producing large amounts of frequencies, artificially again, and large amounts of frequencies below 290, 280 nanometers, which are frequencies that are not commonly or not really reaching the earth from the sun at all. These are reaching into the very high-energy UVC range, which is absolutely damaging to our biology because it is very foreign and we're not designed to handle it.
So, as a result, a lot of people were exposed to these lamps, which were not necessarily good. And so, although there were lots of physicians advocating for tremendous, tremendous exposure to these lamps, a lot of physicians and researchers were looking at what could the risks of this be. And studies that were done in mice initially now, albino mice, in particular, began to indicate that sunlight could actually, or I should say ultraviolet light because these were artificial ultraviolet lamps they were using, could actually lead to skin cancer development. So, this is a really interesting question to answer because basically, we have this dilemma even today where the same frequencies, ultraviolet, that stimulate the synthesis of vitamin D and all kinds of other processes, which we'll get into a bit, that are not commonly discussed also seems at least to cause cancer.
Now, here's the issue. For thousands of years, the skin developed as an organ to protect us from foreign substances, invaders to encase all of our vital organs and functions, our blood and everything. And this is to the extent that our skin is like a super suit. It can repair, like regenerate. If you cut it, if we wound it horribly, it will regenerate. It's unbelievably powerful. It's waterproof, you know, and it's also sun proof. It's designed to protect us from the sun's rays such that throughout the course of human evolution, people's melanin content in skin adjusted and ability for melanin production adjusted based on the latitudes that we live that. So, when people went further north with less light, at least in Europe, there were mutations that were adapted so that we could assimilate more light and generate more vitamin D and get more of the benefits of the sun even with less light.
So, for example, if someone lived out in the sun from winter to summer, the transition, the build-up that would occur of what we call the solar callus, which is the body's natural sun protection mechanism, and it's built out of keratinocyte cells that basically die upon exposure to sunlight and scatter their DNA, which is the ultimate absorber of UV light DNA is designed, and we'll talk about this as well a little bit later on. But basically, DNA has an absorption spectrum of ultraviolet light because DNA itself uses ultraviolet light to actually communicate, which is very interesting, separate from this subject. But basically, so DNA is able to scatter this ultraviolet light and turn it just into heat rendering it harmless. So, that's what these keratinocyte cells do, and they're built up basically as the spring goes into summer each year from a winter to a summer.
Now, the issue is that now we no longer have this natural build-up process. So, I would go as far to wager that sunburns were almost completely non-existent because if you live, for example, in Norway or Germany or England, as the sun came back slowly and you're a wild ancient human wearing just a loincloth, which even Julius Caesar reported that's pretty much all the Germans wore when he was facing them, it was their culture, even in the winter, and they would bathe in rivers and whatnot, cold rivers, surprise, surprise, for the health benefits. So, you would be getting that build-up, that solar callus such that by the time the strong summer sun came around, you'd be able to handle it. And the body contains these natural mechanisms where we know just exactly how much light we need to get.
See, if we get too hot, we go in the shade. But now, today, we have this issue where we go into the sun. And because we've been living in entirely indoor lifestyle, the body is just begging, begging, begging for more and more and more sun, but the skin hasn't adjusted. So, it isn't that the sun and ultraviolet light causes skin cancer; it's that man's modern lifestyle and disconnection from sunlight has created an environment that allows us to obtain toxic, extremely high doses of ultraviolet light, which we would never have obtained previously in evolution leading to, for example, potential genetic mutation leading to things like skin cancer. But to blame it on the sun is not accurate. It's a product of human life and modern human life.
For example, some authors on the subject have written, it's called the outdoor worker effect when a chronic tan naturally waxes and wanes with the sun, growing darker with the summer, then fading with winter light. In the ancient pattern of life, human appearance would track the seasons as it does for other animals like the bear and its winter coat. The modern indoor worker, especially in wealthier classes, grows pale inside offices, homes, and malls, and plunges into irregular bouts of excessive sunlight on beach vacations or long weekends. This sudden intense intermittent pattern of sun exposure heightens melanoma risk, says Bruce Armstrong, internationally known–he's an internationally known Australian epidemiologist and former deputy director for the International Agency for Research on Cancer. And he was a co-author of this study in which they were making these conclusions.
So, this is some of the stuff that is really important to know when discussing ultraviolet light and skin cancer. It's not a black or white issue. Interestingly enough though, a 1980 study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Sydney's melanoma clinic found that the incidence of malignant melanomas was considerably higher in office workers and individuals who are regularly exposed to artificial light due to lifestyle or occupation. Those who had the lowest risk of developing skin cancer were those whose main outdoor activity was sunbathing. Twice the risk of developing melanoma was found in office workers who had to work indoors all day under fluorescent lights. Fluorescent office lights can cause mutation in cultures of animal cells. Dr. Shah, who is the main researcher on the study, concludes in both Australia and Great Britain, melanoma rates were high among professional and office workers and lower in people working outdoors. That's very interesting.
Another interesting finding is that there's this discussion about the ozone hole. And basically, a study in the British Journal of Cancer showed that from 1957 to 1980, in Norway, there was no change in ozone levels. However, the rate of malignant melanoma in women increased 350%–for men, I should say, 350% in men, and 440% in women. So, clearly, the argument that the ozone hole is receding and being depleted, increasing skin cancer isn't fully backed by the evidence that's present. Another most interesting of all, let's say, statistics is the fact that skin cancer rates have absolutely skyrocketed since the early 1900s. Yet in this time, people have transitioned to an entirely indoor lifestyle. So, in 1900, 75% of people in the U.S. worked outdoors. In 1970, less than 10% of people did. And today, it's virtually a very small percentage of people work outdoors compared to the entire population.
So, considering all of these things is very important because we can see that although there is a risk for creating, let's say, cancers when exposed to unsafe amounts of ultraviolet light without proper precaution, precautionary principles, let's say, it isn't actually the cause. And in fact, the amount of disease and death caused by avoidance of sunlight is orders of magnitude greater than the amount of melanoma that is caused by this. So, for example, in 2016, a researcher named Lindqvist in Sweden did a study, which showed that avoiding sun is worse for health span, meaning, healthy lifespan, than smoking. Basically, what this means is they studied several women, hundreds and hundreds of women for a very long time and evaluated all their factors and then the women's health. And of course, none of these studies are exactly perfect. However, it was a very, very large population size. So, they're able to make these conclusions and see that they're actually statistically significant.
And the factor that created the greatest risk for disease even more so than smoking, or at least very comparable to that of smoking, was avoidance of sunlight exposure. And it makes sense given the stuff we're getting into here. So, also, another very interesting finding is that essentially when people have higher vitamin D levels, it decreases the risk of every cancer. So, all these studies that we'll actually have linked in the notes here so people can dig in and do some further reading for themselves, it's really important that–anyone can go in and verify this and read about it, but the most important note is that it's not a black or white issue.
Yes, excessive exposure to the sun unprepared can cause, for example, skin cancer. However, if one builds up a healthy solar callus on a regular basis, one can absolutely expose oneself to two to three hours of sunlight at the right times of day. But again, we have to listen to our body. Like I listen to my body when I'm in the sun. And there's certain times when I haven't and I've got burned and that's not good as a result of this. But when I'm, for example, in the sun mid to late morning, that's when I'm getting my vitamin D production as the sun gets stronger. But when the midday comes and it's too hot and my body says okay, even if I've gone in the water and out a couple of times, to cool off at a certain point, the body says, “Now I've had enough,” and then I'm out, and I'm in the shade, and I'm doing my work, whatever.
So, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. But in the early 1900s, the health recommendations were pretty much saying, “Just get in the sun more and more and more and use these ultraviolet lamps and so on and so on.” So, this created a craze, which led to the seesaw going from one side of the extreme to the next side of the extreme. And just to touch briefly on sunscreens, the first sunscreens that were used didn't even have any studies behind them, didn't even have any active ingredients shown. So, it was really bad at the time. But today, sunscreens still contain chemicals that when exposed to light are basically becoming harmful and toxic.
And so, yes, it is advocated based on these, I should say this misinformation and lack of understanding about the body's natural capability to adapt to sunlight, and the importance of only being in the sun when it's healthy for the body and not trying to force it when it's not. But so, we're putting on these sunscreens, which are loaded with basically chemicals that have, in several studies, been shown to be carcinogenic. And then bathing in the sun, which makes it even worse with these screens on. It's better to just wear a shirt and a hat. And also, we'll talk about this as well a little bit later on, but sunglasses are a tremendous problem because they filter out spectrum of the sun.
So, getting into some of the research on how does sunlight affect the body, essentially, we've gone through a lot of the history, but how does a sun affect the human? So, one of the most important things is actually the effect of ultraviolet light. So, let's get into this just briefly because we've been talking about ultraviolet light, we've been talking about the risk of skin cancer, and so on. I'll just go through a list of the benefits of ultraviolet light. Number one, ultraviolet light activates the synthesis of vitamin D, which is a prerequisite for the absorption of calcium and other minerals from the diet. And now, today, we actually know that there's a lot more to it. Without healthy vitamin D levels, there's significantly increased rates of pretty much every modern chronic disease or at least a substantial amount of them including cancer and so on and so on.
So, the immune system doesn't function optimally with low vitamin D levels. This is absolutely critical. Ultraviolet light also lowers blood pressure, and the way that it does this is by stimulating the release of a chemical called nitric oxide from our blood vessels, which causes the blood vessels to vasodilate, meaning that they expand. And then what this does is, basically, it lowers our blood pressure naturally. Also, what's really interesting, what this does is it brings light into our skin layer because the capillaries within the skin are also dilating. And so, what happens is that because ultraviolet light doesn't penetrate very deep, this allows blood to come up to the light and to become irradiated.
And we actually–it's pretty amazing, but red blood cells have pigments on them called porphyrins, which are designed to absorb ultraviolet light, and they actually funnel this light into our body where it has all kinds of amazing effects, one being affecting and improving mitochondrial function. And what nitric oxide does, another thing that it does very interestingly is reduces the function of cytochrome c oxidase in our mitochondria. Now, this would seemingly be toxic to reduce the function of the cellular engines that are actually keeping us alive. However, the most interesting thing is that there are studies now showing that infrared and red light affect the mitochondria directly because these, unlike ultraviolet, penetrate very deep through our skin. So, these frequencies allow the mitochondria to create ATP with no food necessary.
So, in other words, UV light and nitric oxide reduce the amount of fuel being used from food and allow it to be naturally made by sun. It's kind of like if you had an engine in your car that when hit by sunlight, the sunlight alone signaled to stop bringing in gas, and then it actually powered the function of the car from there on out. That's essentially how our body works. And this is why, for example, people who are in the sun all day, or when you're in the sun all day, you might notice that you have a reduction in your appetite. Again, granted that you're getting the morning exposure, which we're going to get into at the right times, that you're not covering yourself with sunscreen, sunglasses, and whatnot.
So, ultraviolet light also increases the efficiency of the heart. Studies showed that in 18 of 20 people tested, exposed to ultraviolet light, cardiac output increased by an average of 39%. This was at the Tulane School of Medicine. And these studies were actually done a while ago, like in the 1900s, mid-1900s, oftentimes late 1900s. But the research is still very good. So, ultraviolet light improves EKG readings and blood profiles of people with atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries. So, UV light reduces cholesterol, and this is very interesting. Basically, this is one of the effects of sunlight. The way it affects our body is we take in ultraviolet light via our–and just the spectrum of light in general, via our eyes and via our skin. And what this light does is it actually goes into our bloodstream. It's like a form of nutrition beside suit. It literally comes in through the eyes and the skin, and it irradiates our bloodstream, and there's a whole host of molecules in the body that are affected positively by sunlight.
Essentially, for example, cholesterol is broken down by ultraviolet light. So, this leads to lowering of cholesterol levels. But what this also does is this allows us to make, for example, the molecules that are derived from cholesterol more easily, such as all of our sex steroid hormones, as well as vitamin D3. On that note, in 1979, researchers named Martinek and Berzin (ph) showed that some colors of light can make certain enzymes up to 500% more effective, increasing the rate of reactions, activating or deactivating certain enzymes, and affecting the movement of certain substances across membranes.
Since we evolved under the power of the sun, it's no surprise that countless functions are directly affected and controlled by various components of the solar spectrum. There are so many frequencies that could control so many different processes, and the body actually takes advantage of this. So, not going into the sun, it is absolutely a serious form of malnutrition, and it's just something that we don't want to be doing. Again, our engines are powered by the fuel that we're consuming. However, what powers–well, I should say that the fuel that we're consuming, it allows us to make ATP and to live. But we also evolved under the power of direct sunlight to improve our ability to do just that, to generate energy and to carry out other functions.
And vitamin D is a really great example of this, really. Think about it. No matter how much food you eat, how much energy we get from food, we can never mimic the frequencies of ultraviolet light that are necessary to generate and synthesize vitamin D. And although it's often thought that that is the only hormone, neurotransmitter that's affected by sun, it's one of countless. For example, when we receive sunlight through eye, again it affects the production of our sex steroid hormones, it affects the production of, for example, dopamine, it affects the production of serotonin, it affects the production of melatonin in ways that we will also discuss.
So, at a cellular level, another reason that it's absurd to think that ultraviolet light would cause skin cancer is that it was shown by a researcher named Alexander Gurwitsch, who discovered something called the biophoton, which is a photon, a tiny unit of light that's actually emitted by a living organism, a biophoton. And that mitosis, the process of cell division, the process of cell division in living organisms is stimulated by the release of extremely low frequency ultraviolet light. So, ultraviolet light isn't always bad. Seriously, it's not. It was also shown that cells that are stressed, interestingly, very interestingly, or diseased, emit or leak far more light than healthy cells. This is not good when cells are leaking light. Our cells are designed to keep and capture light and hold it and utilize it. It's our life source in many ways. Very interestingly, it was measured that when an organism dies, its cells leak low frequency ultraviolet light for 18 hours, which is very similar to the reports in various religions and spiritual traditions of a soul leaving the body after death.
So, I'm going to just kind of run through several more benefits of sunlight rapid fire, and then we'll get into some serious practical applications of how people can use sunlight to optimize health. So, basically, for example, sunlight on training. German researchers in 1956 studied young men throughout the year and found peak trainability and fitness in late summer with declines in autumn, lowest points during the winter. And there are similar studies in Germany, in Norway, and Sweden that confirmed these findings. Elite runners from the Swedish national team were shown to have experienced maximal oxygen uptake during exercise in the summer months on metabolism. It's been shown that animals kept in darkness produce more body fat than those living in light.
Also, in 1946, a researcher named Mark studied mineral polar expedition during a polar winter. He observed abnormalities in water balance, deterioration behavior, hypoglycemia, sinking of their basal metabolic rates, decrease in their sperm potency and drive, loss of hair, feelings of irritability and depression, and all of their symptoms receded after sufficient exposure to light. In 1951, a researcher named Jodorowsky (ph) found that patients with diabetes insipidus with cataracts in both lenses of their eyes had tremendously increased excretion of urine due to disturbance to their pituitary function. When he removed the cataracts, allowing light to enter both eyes normally and stimulate all of these processes, the symptoms disappeared with no further therapeutic measures.
In the 1960s and '70s, Sollberger and Halberg, who happened to be the guy who discovered circadian rhythms, which we will also touch on, determined that the efficacy of medicine was affected by the time of the day when they were consumed. Cardiac patients responded better to diuretics in the evening. Diabetics, morning dose of insulin was more effective the earlier it was taken. Also, they observed that asthma attacks, acute heart failure and strokes occurred most commonly at 4:00 a.m. So, one of the most profound findings of the 20th century was by a guy named Fritz Hollwich, basically underlying all of the research we're discussing today, who's the first to clearly demonstrate the entry of light into the eye influence the function of our pituitary gland, endocrine system, and our metabolism independent of the process of vision. He found that if these impulses were absent, as in the case of certain blind people, significant deficiencies occurred in these various systems.
So, for example, the most fascinating research he did showed that when they took the cataracts out of blind patients–and by the way, blind patients they knew always had abnormal levels of various hormones in the blood metabolites and so on. When they removed their cataracts, just allowing light to pass through their eyes normally even though they still might not be able to see optimally, the cataracts that are making them mostly blind, in these people–because it wasn't a rod-cone deficiency, it was cataracts that are making them blind. So, these growths are basically on the lenses. He removed these and these people's hormones, their neurotransmitter function, their metabolites essentially came to normal.
There were studies done making white mice anemic by draining 50% of their blood supply. Talk about cruelty, animal cruelty. The mice kept in darkness died after two days showing tremendous decreases in hemoglobin and so on. Mice kept in daylight regained original amounts in two weeks. Mice irradiated with ultraviolet light shortened the period of regeneration to nine or ten days. It's fascinating. So, sunlight drove the process and drives the process of hemoglobin and blood flow. It's been shown that it can help to increase the oxygen content of blood and the capacity to deliver oxygen to tissues and so on. It increases the number of white blood cells, which defend the body from infections.
So, Hollwich, this researcher said, “When we speak of life, we generally think of its function as a camera.” I should say, “When we speak of the eye, we generally think of its function as a camera, whose sole task is to transmit to man the form, color, and brightness in the environment.” The second equally important function of the eye, but less known, is as a receptor for extra visual photo stimuli, and it is generally unknown even today. The eye uses light not only as the medium of vision, light entering the eye regulates a tremendous amount of autonomic, unconscious, metabolic, and hormonal processes, again such as sugar balance, water balance, blood count, sexual function, and much more.
So, let's talk about something really important called the circadian rhythm. In the Bible, in history, Jesus said, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil; thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” And another way of translating that essentially is that if our eyes don't work well, if our eyes are dirty, if our eyes are bad, our body won't work well. If our eyes are clean, our body will be full of light. And there are various translations of this passage, but one of them is even more close to saying if the eye is clear, we will be full of health and light, essentially. But I like to leave the original, more original translation so that people can think about it a bit more.
So, it's interesting. Just fun facts. The Space Shuttle Columbia had 5.2 million parts. A single eye has 137 million photoreceptors and more than 1 billion parts. The eyes and the brain are 2% of body weight and use 25% of energy and nutrition. Alone, they use one-third as much oxygen as the heart. They need 10 to 20 times as much vitamin C as joints and more zinc than any other organ in the body. So, eat your oysters. So, yeah, light coming into the eyes regulates the hypothalamus, which regulates and controls the autonomic nervous system, energy balance, fluid balance, heat regulation, activity and sleep, circulation and reading, growth and maturation, reproduction and emotional balance.
The hypothalamus also controls secretions of the pituitary gland, also known as the endocrine system, essentially. These terms were conflated at the time of this writing. The endocrine system regulates processes by secreting hormones and consists of the following glands; pituitary, pineal, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenals, pancreas, and gonads. The anterior pituitary affects the thyroid, adrenal cortex, testes, ovaries, breasts, the growth of long bones, muscles, internal organs. And again, at the time this quote was written by Hollwich, the posterior pituitary affects mammary glands and kidneys, and this is what was known at the time. This is a tremendous amount of things affected by the hypothalamus, which is affected by light, as you will see.
So, for nearly 150 years, it was assumed that the mammalian retina contained only two types of photoreceptors, rods and cones. In the early 1900s, however, a study conducted on accidentally bred blind mice showed that their pupils still responded to light even though they lacked rods and cones indicating the existence of an unknown photoreceptor. This was confirmed in the 1980s when it was shown that rods and cones were not necessary for photoentrainment of the circadian rhythm, nor for secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland. In 1953, Franz Halberg, I mentioned earlier, proved the existence of a daily circadian rhythm in almost every living creature with consistent rhythmical variations in vital functions within each day and night. Circadian comes from two Latin words: circa, meaning approximately; dias, meaning one day. Circadian, the reason it's actually a rhythm that is approximately a day, surprise, surprise, it follows the sun. And it's interesting that if we are out of the sun's stimulus, the circadian rhythm just forward about 40 minutes per day.
In 1998, a researcher named Ignacio Provencio and his team at the University of Virginia confirm the existence of melanopsin, the previously unknown photoreceptor pigment responsible for the photosensitivity of these intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells in the eyes, the third photoreceptor. Melanopsin is not observed in the outer retinal cells responsible for color vision, but only in the inner retina, and this happens to be, interestingly enough, the reason why blue-light-blocking glasses don't need to cover all of the light entering the eye, but just to direct on light that's reaching into the inner retina. But we'll talk about what these glasses are later on and whatnot.
So, these retinal ganglion photoreceptor cells and their melanopsin are not responsible for color vision again, but specifically, for synchronizing our circadian clock to light-dark cycle. So, there's this system occurring completely separate from our vision through the organs, which we think only allow us to see. But really, there's also a clock functioning at all times sensing things that we don't visually pick up on, not to mention all of the other hormonal processes and whatnot affected just by the perception of the full spectrum of light coming through the eye. So, the circadian rhythm also affects regulation, or I should say, these photoreceptor cells affect regulation of our pupil size, modulation of our sleep naturally, suppression of pineal melatonin secretion, which is again intricately and intimately related to sleep.
Melanopsin is not. This is pigment. It's not sensitive to all wavelengths of light, but specifically, to high-energy blue wavelengths, and this is because blue wavelengths of sunlight are present from sunrise to sunset, however, their proportions vary more throughout the day than any other component of sunlight. This is due to the scattering of blue wavelengths by the atmosphere, the reason why the sky appears blue and why when the sun is lower on the horizon, it has more orangish, reddish color because more blue is being filtered out, but as it rises, less blue is filtered out. So, it takes on a more yellowish color, but still blue is being filtered out, scattered, why the sky appears blue again, and that's why the sun appears yellow rather than the white, which its true color is like stars.
So, this signal of blue light is sent via the optic nerve directly to what's called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is in this master brain area called the hypothalamus. And this suprachiasmatic nucleus that gets these signals directly from the eyes, signals that are, let's say, going on a different track than the visual tracks, this is the master timekeeper for our body's circadian rhythm, which sets all of the other peripheral clocks in our body. Now, what's also fascinating is that the pineal gland, which is also linked to the hypothalamus and the suprachiasmatic nucleus for melatonin secretion, it evolved early in evolution as a body sensor for heat, light, and air, and movement to signal danger, time for reproduction, and so on. And vertebrates such as crabs and insects have this structure in addition to two eyes. It corresponds just to our pineal gland. The jawless fish, one of the oldest animals on the evolutionary scale, shows only this eye in the beginning of its life until it reaches its metamorphosis into sexual maturity. At which point, the two normal eyes come on and develop.
So, it indicates that the pineal eye is primordial to the eyes that we generally consider for vision and sensing the environment. And as we evolved, our pineal sunk back into the brain. However, the systems to control this were adapted into our two eyes, but they're operating constantly separate of our vision. This is the circadian rhythm. It's very fascinating, and this controls essentially everything in our body, the timing of so many hormones from peristalsis, this natural desire to basically poop that we should have every morning when we wake up, to the secretion of various hormones throughout the day, to the function of our body.
And the most interesting research, in my opinion, in circadian rhythm field is done by a researcher named Dr. Satchin Panda from the Salk Institute down around San Diego. What he's shown is the animals that consume–for example, mice, they're designed to be burning and consuming food at night, in the early evening, let's say, not during the day. So, when they consume, when they're fed healthy food during the day when they're not supposed to be eating versus unhealthy food in the evening when they are designed to be eating, the mice that ate the unhealthy food had far less metabolic problems than the mice that ate the healthy food but at the wrong time of the day. And this is why the engine that I brought up earlier on is so critical because if you don't have the engine, you don't have context for how food is utilized in the body.
So, basically, what this implies is that for humans and animals that are awake during the day, if we're eating late at night–and again, his other studies have backed this up. People can pick up his book, “The Circadian Code.” It basically implies that if we eat ice cream or drink a bottle of Coca Cola, and I'm not advocating this as optimal, but this is what the research indicates, if you eat this earlier in the day, it's going to have a significantly smaller effect on our health than eating, let's say, a big healthy salad or a big healthy meal late in the evening. Now again, this sounds completely counterintuitive, but if you consider the engine, if the engine is designed to be off, turning off as it gets dark and we're getting ready to sleep, and then sleep is the key time for our repair and regeneration, if we're taking in substances that we need to burn late in the evening when our engine is turning off, it's like tar going into the engine versus something that might not be as good but it's going in when the engine is firing at full force.
Think about it from an engine perspective and it's clear which one is going to be more damaging given the overall context. And this is it flies in the face of everything that I thought I knew when I was studying diet, but the research is there. Satchin Panda, great TED Talks and everything, The Circadian Code. So, we'll get into some recommendations, but I recommend not eating after 5:00 p.m. ever based on this research. So, a couple things to be clear on are first of all, how does the sun and this circadian rhythm and all these things actually go back to affecting mitochondrial function?
And some of the pieces we did discuss, however, one key piece to note is melatonin. Melatonin is this almost magical hormone, which optimizes everything in our body. It is a master antioxidant hormone, anti-aging hormone, and it repairs mitochondrial DNA, not impairs but repairs mitochondrial DNA, which control the function of the mitochondria, and that happens to be a piece that is damaged when we're seeing these mitochondrial diseases. So, getting proper melatonin secretion and creation is absolutely critical. And it turns out that melatonin creation is powered by–of course, naturally, we have to consume the amino acid tryptophan, which in any healthy diet with some proteins will have tryptophan. And then exposure to light throughout the day allows us to break that tryptophan down so that it can be converted into serotonin. But the key is that we need darkness after the sunset so that we can convert or we can, I should say, secrete melatonin properly because again, melatonin is the hormone of darkness and of sleep.
If we have exposure to artificial light in the evening, particularly containing these blue frequencies which set the circadian rhythm, it's going to naturally–and it's been shown in dozens of studies. Even Harvard University has papers written on this. One's called “Blue Light Has a Dark Side.” I recommend checking it out. This will absolutely, tremendously affect our melatonin levels. And so, this means even if we go to sleep at a certain time, sleep is not going to be anywhere near the same quality if we didn't have those three to four hours of darkness before going to bed, or at least a couple from when the sun goes down.
So, naturally, a great question would be, how does artificial light affect these processes? And the answer is not particularly well. Artificial light was created to extend work hours. And I have some great quotes from our friend Fritz Hollwich, who discovered these non-visual pathways and how they affect all of our hormonal systems, and pituitary gland, and whatnot, and the metabolites of blind people with cataracts removed. So, he said, “Artificial light extended work hours just past twilight and into the night. The effective increased productivity does not come just for improved vision. It affects the entire organism via the energetic portion of the optic nerve. Increased photo stimulus causes secretion of ACTH and cortisol. And as a result, work performance increases during the first hours of exposure only to decline sharply thereafter.”
Another tidbit of wisdom. Well, I'll just share a little bit more detail. Artificial lights back in a couple decades ago, mostly incandescent, it's a more balanced spectrum with more red light, which is more healing than the blue light, which is more stressful. But again, they're balanced, counter-balanced in the full spectrum of sunlight. But that's how incandescent lights were. But then we started switching fluorescent bulbs and LEDs in the recent ages, and particularly, screen devices which are extremely, extremely deleterious for our health. And so, the issue with this is that these devices contain tremendous amounts of blue light, which essentially disrupt our circadian rhythm tremendously and lead to lowered melatonin levels, and basically, mitochondrial damage.
So, combining together the tremendous effects on all of our biologic systems of the absence of sunlight exposure to drive the production of certain key hormones, immune system, mitochondrial function, metabolism, basically, a lot of stuff combined with exposure to now artificial light, stressing our body out, burning the candle on both ends, literally, it's not good. It leads to chronic stress in the body, and ultimately, mitochondrial dysfunction and mitochondrial disease. So, we'll get a little bit more into this in the practical recommendations of how to actually affect this, but artificial light in particularly after the evening is something to be hacked, and it is not optimal, it's trading time for productivity. Or if we work in an office building, it's just killing our time, basically.
“So, until the present,” Hollwich said, “problems with artificial lighting have been considered to be primarily technical, but it is now time to direct to the medical aspects. Man has adapted completely to natural daylight. Artificial light, which differs to a high degree from sunlight in its composition, should be regarded only as supplementary and not as a replacement of equal value. Above all, in the case of children who attend school without windows, we must be prepared for the eventual appearance of pathological consequences, and this is how I started off. The issues that we're seeing today in the mental function of kids and so on due to the lack of sunlight to properly regulate the hormonal and neurotransmitter systems, and then the massive exposure to artificial light from LEDs, fluorescent bulbs, and screen devices is a toxic combination. And the only logical result would be the creation of the massive epidemic of modern chronic disease we're seeing today.”
Alright. So, thus far, we've gotten through a lot of information about the history of sunlight and so on. And now, I want to get straight into the good stuff because you're probably wondering, “This is awesome. How do I apply it? How does this actually relate to my day-to-day life and what can I do with it? Am I just going to go in the sun? Am I just going to avoid artificial light? What do I do? Never fear. I spent the last several years implementing the recommendations that I got from a mentor of mine, who I have to give a shout out to, named Dr. Jack Kruse, who I believe Ben has had on the show in the past. And he basically put together a lot of these pieces of the research such that one could apply sensible protocols to actually improve their health.
So, for this, I'm tremendously grateful and commend him extremely highly for helping me to bring my health to the next level, and most fascinatingly to me, putting the pieces together, which western typical research scientists aren't able to do, and they've told me they're not able to do this because, for example, grant money is given to specific fields of research but rarely to put together the research such that it's as if scientists are a bunch of people digging very deep trenches in the depths of the trench signifying the depth of the knowledge within a particular field, but no tunnels connect the trenches.
So, this work is absolutely critical, and it's even starting to imply, as discussed previously, that a lot of the things, for example, that eastern wisdom was interested in Ayurveda, for example. We can talk about things like traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, the research in the field of light, photobiology, bioelectromagnetism, the effects of electricity, which is also a form of light. In some sense, it is of electromagnetic. These are being implicated as actually viable realistic therapies that aren't pseudoscientific based on the research that's been coming out in the last 100 years in the fields of what, altogether, I would call quantum biology, biology at a quantum level.
So, without further ado, here is what I call the Light Diet Protocol. There are several steps, and I'll read through them for you. Step one, sleep with the sun. Step two, rise with the sun and bathe in the morning light. Step three, live outdoors during the day. Step four, consume fatty seafood. Step five, consume clean spring water. Step six, bathe in cold water, also known as cold thermogenesis. Step seven, avoid manmade electromagnetic radiation. And step eight, cultivate your inner light. Now, I'll go into some detail so that you actually understand what all these mean and how to apply them.
Basically, the first step of the light diet is to sleep and wake with the sun as well. The reason for this is simple. It's how we evolved to function, and it's the only way there are hormones and biologic systems can function as they were designed. Until the invention of the light bulb in the late 1800s, it was not possible to disrupt our natural circadian rhythm. Moonlight and lightning flashes were not strong enough to do so, and firelight doesn't contain the blue wavelengths, which set the circadian rhythm daily. The advent of artificial light, as discussed before, allowed us to extend our working hours into the evening by spiking our levels of cortisol and ACTH. All those allowed for a brief improvement and focus after dark and productivity. It was brief and followed by a rapid decline in cognitive function.
Also, the artificially induced stress after sunset doesn't come without a cost. It acutely disrupts the circadian rhythm causing a suppression of our key sleep antioxidant and anti-aging hormones. For example, such as melatonin and the disruption of other circadian hormones related to sleep such as prolactin and human growth hormone. So, even though we appear to be gaining time and productivity by using artificial light after sunset, we're stealing time from the next day ultimately from our healthy lifespan because biologic time, our ability to exist healthily and properly is created, powered by, and maintained by our exposure to sunlight.
By staying awake with an artificial light stimulus after sunset, we're both draining our battery and creating a phase shift, which will prevent us from rising naturally before sunrise to recharge and reset our metabolic and hormonal processes the following day. So, what's the solution? Well, there are several things you want to consider for nighttime because this is where one of the greatest circadian disruptions is occurring with artificial light at night. So, one, for sleep. Generally, avoid the use of artificial lighting in your house or a boat after sunset and sleep as soon as you can after the sunsets. Adjust your sleep time, this is the key, so that you will rise naturally before sunrise. Then at that time, you'll be significantly more productive without harming your biology and taking time off the next day and the end of your life, ultimately, in your health span.
Now, for lighting. If you want to continue to maintain your current lifestyle of living with artificial light at night, that's totally cool. That's how the world works today. So, you can still make improvements though when doing this. What you can do is you can replace all the lightbulbs in your house with red, orange, yellow, or any form of blue light free bulbs. Now, for the biohackers here, people who want to go all in, this is what you can do if you need to have lights in your house, these blue free bulbs. You can get them on Amazon. Again, red bulbs, orange bulbs, and so on.
Now, if you're going to have guests over and you're concerned about their impression, or your family isn't going be cool with colored lightbulbs, red orange, yellow, which means they're blue light-free, although a lot of bars and restaurants have been to actually use lightbulbs like this for the decorative effects. They're very relaxing and calming, and they know that. But what you can do is you can use Thomas Edison style incandescent bulbs, the ones that you've seen in restaurants also that have the filament exposed. They're very beautiful, but make sure you get the incandescent ones. You can get them on Amazon, too, not the knockoff ones with LEDs that are made to look like the incandescent because those are way stronger, more blue light, and not good.
So, what these Thomas Edison bulbs are good for is that they're much dimmer than most other lightbulbs available, which is great at night, and they have very little blue light, but they still look pretty normal, natural, and they're beautiful. So, people will like them, actually. Now, they're often, like I said, used in restaurants. And even better than these Edison bulbs are natural candles. These are great, and they have the benefit of warming up the house and so on and getting everyone in the mood for sleep or sex, but sleep is the primary focus here. But it actually has to do–both of those have to do with the increase in melatonin and so on and so on.
So, anyhow, personally, for the ultimate biohackers, I do not use any lightbulbs after sunset wherever I'm living. I recommend avoiding use of lightbulbs at all in general, even during the day, particularly in well-designed homes, especially as one's eyes begin to adjust to a natural circadian rhythm. One can use natural lighting for the entire length of the day if indoors, then dim red light or just darkness after sunset. Wherever I am, I always have two headlamps, like camping head torches basically, which are battery-powered and contain a red-light function, which is the only function that I use. Either hold this in my hand or have it strapped to my head more often. Well, in the bathroom, I'll set it on a surface somewhere. When I'm showering, when I'm reading, I use it. When I'm trying to see my computer keys without having the LED lights within the computer keyboard on at night, this is what I do, and it's super handy. Highly recommend this strategy for anyone who wants to go full-on. This is like the best. And then you're basically living in darkness after the sun goes down so that you're really able to go to sleep shortly after sunset.
Again, that's like a big change for a lot of people going to sleep right after sunset, but you don't really have to do it like that. It's just that I definitely recommend getting to a point where you're going to sleep so that you're waking up before sunrise every day. That's ideal. And again, as I've been suggested by an Ayurvedic doctor who I've learned from in their practice, they always say it's best to go to sleep before 10:00 p.m. every night, otherwise, your nervous system can't fully regenerate based on their, let's say, research.
So, that's a really good thing to follow. And if you're healthy, two nights per week you can break that, but I would say it's generally better, 9:00 p.m. to go to sleep before it gets dark, whether it's 5:00, 6:00, 7:00 in the evening. In the winter, you might want to go to sleep earlier and sleep more hours because that's sort of what we're designed to do in the winter. But again, general rule of thumb, bed before 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., at least five nights of the week and you'll be pretty well. But again, if you're not getting up naturally before sunrise if you're going to sleep, then you want to dial it back at least in the beginning to improve your health and get that regeneration.
So, now for screen devices, super, super, super important. Always best to avoid these after sunset in general, no matter what. Now again, just so I understand some people, it's winter. It gets dark early, you have to work, you have to do your homework. And then there's some stuff we'll talk about. Basically, there are light sources we're designed to look into directly, and this is a greater stimulus on the circadian rhythm than just being around ambient light sources. And the reason for this is because the light that's hitting our eye directly is hitting those intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells that everyone certainly remembers I was talking about, which are in the inner retina, which means direct light hits them. If you're having peripheral light, it doesn't really affect it as much. It still will a little bit, but not nearly as much.
So, the role of screen devices, I would say, cannot be understated or underestimated in the chronic disease epidemic due to this massive disruption of our internal circadian rhythm. And the effect on weight gain, diabetes, anxiety, depression and suicide and mental illness in teenagers in particular cannot be overlooked or understated. It is a very, very tremendous issue, and this is why I'm so passionate about what I do. So, if you choose to continue to use screen devices before sunrise and after sunset, however, there are certain things which you can do, and this begins first of all with software. So, software that you can use for iPhones and iPads is actually built-in now to the new software updates.
So, do a YouTube search with my name, Matt Maruca, and how to make your iPhone screen red. And basically, this video will explain to you how to, within your iPhone and iPad settings, remove blue light from the device for day and for night, and make sure you follow all of the steps. For Android phones, you can download an app called Iris from the Google Play Store. For computers, you can download the software Iris. It costs 10 bucks, but it's better than the alternative flux because it allows you to modulate the brightness of the screen without inducing flicker into the light, which the standard dimmer function does. And we didn't discuss much about flicker, but it is a huge issue in artificial light that I'll briefly touch on now.
Essentially, anything plugged into the alternating current power grid granted to us by Nikola Tesla, it takes on a flicker because the current in the wires is basically alternating at 50 or 60 Hertz depending on if you're in Europe or United States. This alternation basically means the lightbulbs are turning on and off, 50 or 60 times per second. So, that's 120 changes per second or 100, whether it's 50 or 60 Hertz, which is tremendously stressful on the brain, on these systems. And so, for example, even screen devices often have flicker. And in particular, when we dim lights, whether it's in the house or on a screen, it induces more flicker.
So, I found on the iPhone, from my tests on the iPhone 10, anytime the dimmer is reduced below 50%, the flicker is off the charts. So, I generally recommend not using the phone reduced more than 50% dim, just because the flicker is very tremendous. And that's another good reason why just not to use the phone in the evening because you want to make it dimmer to not disrupt your sleep, but then the dimmer induces flicker. So, it's like you're either having a brighter screen or more flickers. It's a mess either way.
Now, the most–and for Iris, by the way, for your computer set, it's a sleep mode at nighttime and health during the day. Now, the most effective strategy for the modern world is blue-light-blocking glasses. This is a no-brainer. Oftentimes, you can't convince your own family to deal with changes in lighting, so it's going to be a lot harder to convince the rest of the world, for example. Also, screen device software that I've mentioned doesn't reduce all of the blue light because there's a lot of blue coming off of the backlight, which is behind the modulated screen. And so even when you modulate the software to change the colors allowed through, that white backlight is still emitting those frequencies, not all of which can be fully filtered. In the day, it wouldn't be a big issue, but at night when you're trying to protect your sleep, it is a big issue.
Like in fact, the other night, I had my computer on, just doing some stuff after it got dark with the software Iris all the way, maximum blue light reduction, maximum dimness, and I still looked at the room when I took my glasses off for a moment to shower and the walls of the room were mostly like a blue hue. So, it's still super dim relative today, but it's more than enough to disrupt the circadian system in the evening. So, blue-light-blocking glasses are basically glasses with lenses designed to cut the frequencies of light that disrupt our circadian rhythm, primarily blue frequencies, but also green frequencies as well. They're a little bit higher energy than the yellow, red, and orange, which like the colors of fire do not disrupt our circadian rhythm very much.
So, they sit directly in front of the eyes and they protect the retinal ganglion cells in the inner retina from this. And again, so although it's common to have wraparound blue blockers, it's not absolutely critical because light coming from the peripherals isn't generally hitting the inner retina. Now, if you want to be 100% safe, you can wear wraparound blue blockers. But having blue blockers that just protect the vast majority of the visual plane, which these ones do, again it's not about the visual plane, it's not about what you see, but it is a generally good indication of the light coming into the eye. So, those would be adequate.
And I actually started a company, which I think might be mentioned at some other point in the intro or the postscript of the podcast, basically called RA Optics and ISO blue-light-blocking glasses. And the story essentially was that I wanted something that was both functional, blocking all the right frequencies, which did exist but in the form of very–how shall we say, unattractive, safety goggles on Amazon. And so, I wanted the functionality combined with the looks, style so that I could wear this at parties, because remember, I'm 20 now. I was 16 when I was doing this, 16, 17 when I started my business. And so, I just had turned 18, actually. So, I wanted to have something I could wear out. That's why I made RA Optics. So, yeah, raoptics.com is my website.
Anyhow, so basically, yeah, I wear blue blockers from the moment the sun goes down until the moment I go to sleep, and it optimizes melatonin naturally. And there are studies from Harvard University. So, just to recap, the first step is light diet, to sleep with the sun, again watch the sunset or at least be outdoors to let your eyes witness declining light, which we didn't really touch on but sort of implied. Second–actually, it might not be implied. It's implied to me, but that's important. Be outdoors as the sun goes down. Two, aim to go to sleep shortly after sunset and always before 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., except with the occasional night out or whatever it might be, late night, and do this so that you can wake naturally before sunrise. And then number three of the recap, if you're staying awake after sunset, wear blue-light-blocking glasses, install blue-light-filtering software for computers and phones, and use blue-free light sources in your house.
Now, I've got a lot written here for you for step two. So, basically, step two is watch the sun rise or wake with the sun and bathe in the morning light. So, for sunrise, again, you want to make sure you're going to sleep so that you're rising naturally before sunrise. And let's say that no matter how early you go to bed, you're finding your body's trying to sleep in. In this case, even if you're going to bed at 8:00, which I always say is pretty good time to go to sleep, 8:00 to 9:00, then you definitely have improvement to make in your health because your body's just begging for the repair and your circadian rhythm is totally disrupted.
So, I would recommend finding an app on the App Store. There's got to be several with gentle alarm tones, setting an alarm for 30 minutes before sunrise each day for a week and seeing how that affects your circadian rhythm. Again, making sure you're going to sleep early enough so that you are getting eight hours of sleep before the sun comes up. In the winter, this will be much easier than in the summer, but you can do it both times anyway. Again, in the summer with more light, we actually need less sleep, less light. In the winter, we kind of need more sleep. So, when you rise in the morning, avoid the exposure to artificial light. If you can't, wear blue-blocking glasses to avoid the signals that would also disrupt your circadian rhythm before the sun comes up because again, bright blue light from an LED isn't the same as the sunrise and it's going to have a different timing effect on the body.
Seek location with where you can watch the sunrise with a long horizon facing east; a river bank, a hill, a lake, an ocean, a field, a sports field, or the second storey of a building. Again, we want to be exposed to that inclining light every day to entrain our circadian rhythm. As we mentioned before, if you aren't exposed to light each day that time cue, the circadian rhythm is gradually shifting. And the reason it's so key to get this morning boost in the light is because when the light first comes up, we start producing certain hormones. And then when UVA light begins to be present within 15 to 30 minutes after sunrise in the summer in the tropics to maybe a couple hours in the winter at northerly latitudes, that stimulates the turning off of certain hormone production that was originally stimulated by the sunrise.
So, we want to be present outdoors for that whole period in the morning to get that. So, essentially, again to stimulate the retinal ganglion cells in the inner retina, you can look directly at the sun for the first 15 to 30 minutes after it rises. This is known as sun gazing. And it's been practiced by yogis for thousands of years, very beneficial for the pineal gland, for eye health, and so on. And it's safe to look at the light directly at this time of day because the higher energy ultraviolet radiation is, which we're not designed to be looking directly at, absolutely not, you will damage your eyes if you do this, if you look at the sun in the middle of the day or later in the day, but it's filtered out by the atmosphere that the sun has to pass through when it's on the horizon. It's coming through more atmosphere when it's at that low angle of inclination. It also filters out more blue light, which is why the sun appears more orange and red than yellow as it rises further in the day.
Now, for people who wear sunglasses or contacts, in particular, this may be challenging. Even when it's right on the horizon, the sun may be too bright. It just means you have lots of room for improvement. So, build up your exposure by looking off to the right or to the left. So, when UVA light comes, at least in the summer, you'll be able to feel this as heat because of the photochemical reaction on the skin. So, that's sort of your signal to know that you've been looking at the sun directly enough, however, and you don't need to look at it directly either. If you look off to the side and let it hit your eyes, that's good enough too. But again, the key is that this will be very intuitive after a little while of when you can look at the sun directly and when you can. Good rule of thumb, 15 to 30 minutes, shorter in the tropics and longer in the winter at temperate zones.
Now, if you live in a wintery place, this is key. Yes, on cloudy days, there are still the full benefits of full-spectrum sunlight. Yes, you want to be outside as the light comes up. It isn't as appealing to take your shirt off, it isn't as warm, but it's still tremendously beneficial. So, that's a really key note. And it's even shown that people have seasonal affective disorder, sort of seasonal depression. Studies showed just a one-hour walk eliminated these symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, also shortened to sad in nearly every single subject who took the one-hour walk in the overcast season. Because again, that light is still pretty bright and stimulating compared to being indoors in the darkness.
Now, this is the key, this is the key driver for me to get the misinformation out of the way. People want to wear sunglasses, contacts, and so on, but these disrupt these processes just like the cataracts that were in the eyes of the patients that Hollwich studied and took out, which renormalized their hormones, metabolites, and neurotransmitters. So, if you're wearing sunglasses and contact lenses, you're not going to get the benefits, basically. Sunglasses filter and distort the solar spectrum. They harm and hamper the sun's natural detective systems for preparing the rest of the body. Great way to basically cause skin cancer and cause sun burning and so on and so on. Also, to damage your eyes and create cataracts because without the UV light hitting your eye, the pupil and iris do not adjust properly to block the incident amount of light. So, it'll let in a ton of the high-energy blue wavelengths because the UV stimulus has been blocked. Really not good.
Contact lenses are also blocking UV light. Very not good. But also, they're reducing oxygen levels reaching the cornea, which is the only tissue in the body that doesn't receive oxygen from bloodstream. It's designed to get it directly from the air. The cornea is very dense in mitochondria and it requires tremendous amounts of oxygen to function as a result. The mitochondria always use oxygen to generate energy. So, if we deprive our corneas mitochondria from oxygen, the cells will function less well, the cornea will function less well, vision will not work as well, and people often with contacts need stronger and stronger prescriptions constantly. No Bueno.
So, that's the sunrise. If you have contacts, wear glasses. Take them off when you're in the morning sun, done. Bathe in the morning sun. So, the heliotherapists like Auguste Rollier knew that the results were the best in the morning sun hours. So, basically, from my experience, the best results you're going to get with the light diet, this is the key, live and bathe in the morning sun. If you have a job, you're going to have to change it. No. You're going to have to consider how you can get as much light on the weekends, in the morning, in the middle of the day, but morning light for the best results, again because you can't have your cake and eat it too. You can't work an indoor office job and hope to not have the health results of working at indoor office job. Again, apply this stuff to the extent possible because it has nonlinear effects. So, small change in sunlight exposure, a small change in something can lead to a much bigger outcome on your overall health. That's the cool thing about non-linear, but still, the fundamental tenants remain. Living indoors all day on a computer screen or under fluorescent lights is harmful to your body and you can't out diet, out supplement.
Basically, what we want to do is be in the morning sun for several hours, from the moment the sun rises until even the middle of the day when the light is stronger, and we can be generating vitamin D. Again, since we live in an age where most of us spend our entire lives indoors, we have to take caution when beginning regular sunbathing. It's key to note that early morning light doesn't cause sunburns in general. This is why even government recommendations say the sun in the middle of the day is the strongest, 10:00 to 2:00, and that's true. So, we want to be in the sun a little bit later in the morning or closer to midday because that's when we're going to build our vitamin D levels. But it's key that we get the morning light to stimulate our circadian rhythm and prepare our skin and turn on all of our organs and systems and everything effectively. So, when we go in the sun in the middle of the day, the body sort of prepared, or we can just stay out all throughout the morning until the body has had enough.
So, the key to note, as discussed earlier on in the skin cancer section, toxic diets, toxins in our environment, artificial light exposure, chronic circadian disruption, and all of these things render the skin, which is our largest organ, less effective at doing its job like they do for all of our organs, and that includes being less effective at assimilating sunlight. And this is particularly the case, and people who have light skin with lower melanin content were not going to be able to assimilate light as well. Those with darker skin have natural sun protection, but this can also be detrimental and very important for people with, for example, more equatorial skin types to know that it takes up to 10 times as long for the darkest skin types to synthesize the same amount of vitamin D as the lightest skin type.
So, if someone has–if you have darker skin, equatorial tropical heritage, you definitely need to get more light than someone who doesn't. And this is another issue the U.S. government is afraid to tailor these recommendations because first of all, it doesn't really know, it seems, anything about the effects of light and sunlight and its importance. Otherwise, we wouldn't have such a high massive epidemic of these chronic diseases that can easily be improved by sunlight or completely prevented, heart disease and so on, as we've discussed. But so, because of issues related to political correctness, it seems, they're afraid of making recommendations based on skin type, which is just a biological–it's a fallacy to not do that.
So, the way that Rollier had his patients adjust to sunlight exposure just to be really safe was five minutes on the feet the first day, then five minutes on the feet plus five minutes on the lower legs leading to ten minutes total on the feet, then ten minutes on the feet, five minutes on the lower legs, and five minutes on the upper legs building up about five minutes a day up the body. Now, however, this is very conservative for the palest and the sickest people he was treating. You don't have to do this necessarily. Basically, what you can do if you know that you don't burn–like the moment you go in the sun, you can start with 15, 20 minutes and then you can build up your exposure 5 to 10 minutes a day with late morning sun.
Again, you need to listen to your body because the issue is, as discussed, people have lived in an indoor lifestyle where our bodies are begging, begging, begging for more sun exposure, but the skin isn't prepared. So, if you go out, your body is going to say more and more and more, but you can't necessarily listen. You need to look at your skin. Once it gets pink, go in the shade. Again, same thing the next day. Pink, then go in the shade, and then you're good. Pink doesn't mean you're burned. It means bloods come to the surface to absorb ultraviolet light, as we've discussed. So, it's not a bad thing like everyone thinks. But if you burn, that's not good. If it hurts, that's not good. So, yeah, you want to build up a natural solar callus in a healthy way.
You'll feel when you should get out of the sun and you'll feel when you should get into the sun. So, as far as waking with the sun and bathing with the morning light, the summary here, and this is how you will heal, but the summary is watch the sun rise every morning even if it's cloudy out, build up your exposure carefully so you can bathe in the morning light for several hours with skin and eyes uncovered, and live outdoors during the day to the extent possible. Actually, that is step three. Step three is live outdoors during the day to the extent possible. Now, there's not too much to discuss on this one as this addendum is taking on substantially longer length than I expected.
But essentially, if you can do the best thing to do because this light, this UV light and light coming through our eye, even if we're not in direct sunlight, it powers our hormones, it powers our circadian rhythm, it powers our mitochondria, it signals for the time cues in the circadian rhythm allowing us to just be exposed to the full spectrum of light. It's tremendously beneficial throughout the day. So, even if you're working indoors, open the windows, let the light in. Even in the winter, it's good, the cold is good for your focus and productivity. Let it in. Let the light in when you're driving. Roll your windows down, take your glasses off, be outside, walk outside, live outside, live like European, sit at a cafe during the day, do your work outdoors at the outdoor part of the café, don't go into a Starbucks behind the glass.
Live outdoors. It drives our biology. You'll feel great. You'll sleep great. It's a really amazing thing how life takes on a different sort of color, a different shade when you begin to live outdoors. Indoors used to be a place, at least I think, where we would just sleep, not where we would spend our whole day cooped up in a cave. So, this is really important. Just being outdoors during the day, and that goes for the early morning sunrise and the evening. You don't have to be in the direct sun sunbathing. We've already got that covered a bit in step two. You just want to be outside. Super important. And critical for kids, too.
Now, there are a few final steps. So, this would be step four, eating seafood. Step five, drinking clean spring water. And step six, taking cold baths. Step seven, avoiding manmade electromagnetic radiation. Forget step seven for now, but these three steps allow us to basically improve our ability to take in and store light. Seafood, the omega-3, DHA. It's, first of all, the reason that we evolved from apes. There are tons of speculation that we evolved from apes because of consumption of organ meats, which is inaccurate. Lions eat tons of organ meats. Lots of animals eat organ meats and they don't have human brains. The human brain is marked by the neocortex, and this is based on, just like the rest of the brain, lots of myelin sheaths while our nerves are made of myelin sheath thing, around them I should say, and this is made of DHA and omega-3 fatty acid from seafood.
So, the fact that unlike vegans claim, humans cannot convert it from ALA like flaxseed oils. This source in flaxseeds very effectively indicates that we must have had it coming from our diet. Also, DHA is extremely highly conserved. It's passed from mother to children via breast milk, and it isn't burned for energy. It's used in our cell membranes, in particular, more than anywhere in our eye and also in our nervous system. And the reason why DHA is unique, this omega-3 fatty acid is that it allows us to transduce light signals in particularly high energy ultraviolet light into a DC electric current via the photoelectric effect that Einstein discovered. It's literally light hits this molecule and creates a flow basically of electrons that can power things like nerve impulses, the process of vision. That's why we have so much in our eye. And again, nerve impulses along our nerves. It can carry lots of these because it's very electron-dense.
So, we want to consume ample amounts of DHA, but not from high mercury sources like tuna swordfish and so on and so on higher up on the food chain. Lower down; sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring, wild-caught Alaskan salmon. This is the real human diet, aquatarian, solartarian, pescetarian. You can still eat meat of course. I'm not saying don't eat meat, if you like meat, but seafood is the key for the human brain. Even the archaeological evidence supports this. Lots of shelves found near the East African area where humans are thought to have evolved.
Taking exogenous omega-3 supplements is a very bad idea because lots of evidence shows that they're filled with toxins, one including aldehyde. Aldehyde is the toxin found based on the processing. It's an oxidative molecule based on the processing of the supplements. I'm friends with someone who used to be an owner of one of the biggest companies that made this algae DHA oil, and he has personally verified to me that this stuff is not processed in a clean way. It is very, very, very disgusting, to say the least.
So, we don't want to deal with these artificial supplements. Get it from the whole seafood source, and the best, the ones that our ancestors most likely ate because they were easy to harvest. The French call it fruits de mer, like I think it's fruit of the sea; shellfish, oysters, mussels, clams, and then you can have shrimp. And also, lower mercury fish are fantastic. Make this the base of the diet every day, two meals a day, once a day, a couple times a week. The more the merrier, especially for pregnant women and young children with developing brains, but also for anyone with any health issues. Even the supplements have been shown to have benefits in lots of studies, but the real effects will come–the best effects will come from taking the whole seafood source.
So, in addition to our eyes, we're also using this in our cell membranes. And again, DHA allows us to assimilate more light. See, I used to be super, super pale. That's another cool thing. I was so pale and so white. I literally couldn't tan. There's going to be people who listen and say, “I just can't tan. I always sunburn.” And I was just like you, probably worse, to be honest with you. Now, I have a very nice tan. My skin is a lot healthier. I have a very, very nice color, I would say. In Croatia where I'm staying at the moment, these old ladies compliment me on–it's kind of interesting but to be honest, it's not how you're designed to be. I'm Irish, White Irish, Norwegian descent. You can get a tan, and that's how you can distinguish, as mentioned earlier, someone who's healthy, someone who's not. It's okay to be pale in the winter, but it is inexcusable to be pale in the summer. Maybe people with red hair might be the only exception. In this case, you can just do with a lot less sunlight exposure because your skin is so pale, but still, you can usually build up a decent–a little bit of color. Again, red hair, freckle-type might be the only skin type that won't develop much tan at all. But generally, blonde hair type usually can, from my experience anyhow. And from that, of those who I know applying the light diet, quite a few. So, of Northern European descent.
So, seafood allows us to assimilate more light. Drinking clean spring water allows us to hold light better because water that contains chemicals like fluoride and chloride from municipal sources, those molecules don't allow–they prevent the water, the light I should say, the water in our cells from actually storing as much light as possible because these chemicals, they're very toxic anyway. Luke Storey, a friend of mine has a really great podcast with a guy on the stuff that's found in municipal and city water. It's really gross.
So, also, just people know Dr. Gerald Pollack and so on. He showed that light or water in our body absorbs light, water absorbs light, and it turns it into this structured fourth phase water that can carry lots of energy. If you don't know about Gerald Pollack, give him a look up, read his book, “The Fourth Phase of Water.” It's fascinating. And it shows how life is primarily powered. At least, it puts out the groundwork that shows how life is, and factually true, is primarily powered by light in large ways. Light gives tons of energy to power our reactions.
So, this is key. Now, what do you drink if you're not drinking municipal tap water? Well, simple enough, and people who listen to this show probably know already. Drinking good qualities local spring water is the best. Now, if you don't have that where you live, you can buy it. You can buy it in big reusable BPA-free jugs at the grocery store. You can buy it in glass bottles. Plastic bottles aren't as good. But if they're BPA-free, it's better. But even if they're not, it's not as bad as drinking water from the tap. Just make sure you recycle. Again, the key though, as long as it doesn't contain tons of toxins, don't get hung up spending your time thinking about the water you're drinking. Just get the best quality water you can get and afford reasonably consistently, and just get light because that's what really makes the change in the water in the cells. That's the key part.
Another thing that allows us to this is step six, bathing cold water, and this allows us to assimilate more light by cooling our surfaces. So, like you're at the beach, you're in the sun, you get hot, what do you do? You go in the water, and then you get back in the sun, and it feels amazing. Why? Because the surface of the skin has been cooled so we can absorb more light. There are tons of other benefits from cold exposure, mitochondrial, and whatnot. But as far as light diet goes, this is key. It can help for weight loss, energy levels, sleep because it improves the biophysics essentially of our mitochondria by forcing the mitochondria to release more energy as just heat, also known as infrared light. And based on Dr. Gerald Pollack's work, this actually structures the water in our cells, optimizing the function, overall energy and so on and so on. So, cold baths, you can go in a lake, a river, a stream. It doesn't have to be freezing, the ocean, but anything cool. Even in the tropics, the water is still cooler than the air. Get in the water. Cool off. Get back in the sun. If you want to go full-on, look up Ben Greenfield and Luke Storey's ice bath hack with a chest freezer. Super awesome.
Step seven, this is avoiding manmade electromagnetic radiation. This could be a whole podcast, a whole series, a whole podcast just dedicated to this, an entire show with episodes just dedicated to the intricacies of this. But many listening to this probably already know, as Ben has discussed, there's a huge risk from non-native electromagnetic radiation. So, do the things necessary to reduce your exposure to this such as avoiding living in a major city, being the biggest, but also turning your phone on airplane mode when it's on your body, using Ethernet connections instead of Wi-Fi to connect to your router, avoiding Bluetooth using an aux cable, not wearing an Apple watch, not wearing EarPod, AirPod headphones, and so on and so on.
And this is going to basically prevent the body from being more stressed because these fields are stressors to our cells based on the research that's out there, the non-industry research. The industry research says it's as safe as breathing oxygen, but this is the industry research, keep in mind. So, there's been large controversy that I don't have the time to get fully into right now, but this is the key to optimize the light diet. This is also a form of light, non-native electromagnetic radiation in the radio and microwave range, and static electric and magnetic fields from high-voltage transmission lines, from electrical appliances, refrigerators, computers, and so on. So, there are hacks you want to do to improve that, like the things I mentioned.
Also, DefenderPad makes a great pad to go under your computer, and that can block the frequencies if it's sitting on your lap, although I would only use that to block the electric and magnetic fields and it will basically push them to the face anyway so it's not optimal. Distance is the best. Yup, these are some of the things that–honestly, just go on Amazon, buy a Cornet ED88T meter and learn how to measure properly. Make sure you're holding it upright when you're using the radio frequency mode. That's the big mistake people make. It has to be upright because the sensor is directional to whatever's coming in the back.
But go around and measure electric fields, magnetic fields, and radio frequencies in your environment with this meter and you'll be able to see. If it goes out of the green range, you need to make a change. And even the green range is–some of what's included in the green range on that meter is unsafe. Again, Cornet ED-88TPlus is the new version. Great meter. And just make sure your sleep space is good. That's the most important because then you can sleep and regenerate really well and you won't be discharging the light that you've basically spent all this time and energy gathering and assimilating. You can flip off the circuit breaker to your entire house, too. That's a huge hack. But distance is also the best because with the inverse square law of electromagnetic radiation, you get distance and then you're good.
Step eight, cultivate your inner light. I don't need to go too much into this because I'm sure that this crowd, anyone who's hearing this, who's listening to this who made it this far is absolutely relentlessly interested in self-improvement. And cultivating your inner light can mean a lot of things, but basically, you're taking all this light in and this light is who you are. See, when we die, it was shown, as mentioned, that ultraviolet light leaves the body for 18 hours, leaks out of the cells. And then when we pointed a dead body, we don't say–for example, if I were dead, you wouldn't generally point at me and say, “That's Matt.” You would say, “That's Matt's body. It's Matt's body.”
So, what was Matt? Just think about it. We are the light in our cells. And when the light leaves, we are no longer there. And some people would call this a soul, rightly so I think. But that's the key. This light that's coming in, it's giving us life. We want to cultivate this light. We want to chisel it into the most beautiful amazing statue that we could ever possibly imagine, the life of our dreams, the character, the beliefs through. I mean, everyone has their own ways, but I think things like prayer, meditation, intention, people often say the term manifestation, these practices on a daily basis in the morning, midday, and in the evening, for example, setting, tuning, relaxing throughout the day, critical.
Also, for example, things like qigong, meditation, yoga, reading good books, talk about a great way to bring in good knowledge, and basically, cultivate the light that's inside of us with interest, and with love, and with stories, and with light. It's just fantastic to read good books. And so again, I'm not an expert on how to become a great human. I'm doing my best as an individual. I do know a lot about light, but I can say for sure that if we don't have the things in our life that make us happy, excited, interested, motivated, driven, passionate, and everything, then it's just not going to be that much fun per se.
Also, implied good relationships and ending relationships with bad and toxic people is probably the number one change that people can make. I mean, this is huge, and this is a cliché almost now, but cut bad people, toxic people out of your life, but it can't be understated. From a light perspective, they drain your light, they drain your light, they drain your light. And then you've always been around, you've definitely met people who give you light and donate light. They're just radiating. And these are the people you want to be around for that light diet.
So, with that, you've gotten a full hour of absolute epicness about the history of light exposure, sunlight, the risks of artificial light, the research and everything, the skin cancer, what's the actual deal with that. As you got, it's not black and white. Sure, burn yourself, live an indoor lifestyle, eat toxic foods, eat toxic chemicals, go in the sun briefly, in strong sun, you're going to get skin cancer, possibly, not necessarily but it's possible. But do what our ancestors did or follow the protocols I've shared here today. Build up your exposure safely, smartly.
You're going to reduce your risk, or I would say, prevent, depending on how much you've done wrong thus far in your life, but significantly reduce your risk of so many chronic diseases, heart disease, Alzheimer's, cancer, obesity by improving your metabolism. You're going to feel it. That's the best part about this. It's not something that you're on a diet you don't feel it. No, you feel the light diet very, very quickly, very quickly like day one, minute one, you feel it. As soon as light hits your eyes and your skin in your face without sunglasses, you feel it. And you feel the sleep gets better when you're in the sun all day because you're making more melatonin. You feel that you have more energy, you feel happier. You get in cold water, you get good light seafood meal, it is something I believe you will feel.
And so, this is the light diet. I hope that you have found value to this. Anyone who's interested, I'm on Instagram at The Light Diet. Reach out to me. I'd love to chat. And check out the company, RA Optics for some great blue-light-blocking glasses. Hook yourself up. Ben has a discount code he'll share, BEN10. And yeah, thank you. I want to thank Ben for giving me the opportunity to share this information. I hope that anyone who's listened to this has found tremendous value and will be able to improve your circadian rhythm first and foremost, improve the charge of your cells by getting more light, improve your skin, improve your system, improve your eyes, which can be done. And with that, I hope that everyone has lots of light in their lives. Thank you very much and do reach out. Take it easy.
Ben: Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
This episode is all about light, but it's certainly not light on content!
I've known Matt for two years now, and consider him to be one of the world's leading authorities on what is called “photobiomodulation,” or the use of specific wavelengths of light therapy to cause some very beneficial health effects. and also a guy who knows more about blue-light blocking glasses and limiting the harmful effects of artificial light than just about anyone I know.
Today's episode is a special two-parter. The first section is yours truly filling you in on how sunlight makes you skinny and blue light makes you fat. The second part is a special solosode from Matt, in which he fills you in on some of the little-known aspects of how to use light and how to block light in a way that will affect your energy, sleep, and mitochondrial health. You'll also learn the history of the use of sunlight for health, why the sun and skin cancer isn’t black and white, lots of research on how light affects human biology and the benefits of sunlight, how artificial light affects the body and much more.
Just to give you a “taste” of what you're about to hear: after preparing this episode, I asked Matt: “can you point me to a post or research on “best time of day to cheat if you are going to cheat” based on circadian rhythm/sun exposure? You alluded to it in the audio.”
“I think it would be morning/mid-day. One of the factors leading me to say this is Ayurveda which I imagine you're familiar with. An Ayurvedic doctor I started working with explained this to me in their terms. Basically, in the middle of the day as the sun is stronger, the metabolism is more active. They call this energy “pitta”, or fire. So, we can burn through stuff pretty well. This is why they generally suggest eating “heavier” food in the middle of the day for lunch. And, it's a no brainer to me to fast through dinner because then the body can completely burn through everything you've consumed.
As for the Western Research, Satchin Panda from the Salk Institute leads the way. I recommend watching his TED talk where he explains their experiments on mice. They basically found that mice eating healthy food when their metabolism is turning off had way more problems than mice eating unhealthy food when their engines are running full force. Because they are nocturnal the times are reversed for them relative to us. So for us the best time would be late morning to mid-day.
To me, when eating this way I wouldn't even consider it a cheat because the body can move through stuff so well. If you are comparing to someone who is usually eating a “healthy” dinner at 7 or 8 PM, I am 100% convinced that it would be healthier to “cheat” every day in the middle of the day and fast through dinner then to do what that person is doing. Based on the research, there really is no such thing as “healthy food” after 5 PM or within 4 hours of sleep.
During our discussion, you'll also discover:
-The impact of light on human biology, for better or worse [8:10]
- Deleterious effects of artificial light have been well researched
- Recent studies show artificial light linked to breast cancer and sleep disorders
- Exposure to artificial bright light at night suppresses melatonin secretion and increases sleep latency (how long it takes to fall asleep)
- LED's are replacing fluorescent bulbs (for better efficiency)
- LED's cause retinal damage, cell death in eye tissue
- Dimming, color-changing features make things worse (flicker)
- Flicker can cause irreversible damage to the retina
- Oxidative stress damage
- Photobiology: The study of the effects of ultraviolet, visible and infrared radiation on living organisms.
- Book: The Influence of the Blue Ray of Sunlight
- Red light used to treat smallpox in 1903
- Phototherapy becomes therapeutic intervention
- Book: Light Therapeutics by John Harvey Kellogg
- Light affects metabolism
- mTOR in the summer; AMPK in the winter
- Being careful with light exposure allows you to strike a proper balance between anabolism and catabolism
-10 light biohacking tactics to optimize your body and brain [17:30]
- Use healthy light bulbs
- Color rendering index (CRI)
- Look for a CRI of 97 or higher in LED bulbs
- Lower than 3000 color temperature (kelvin)
- Avoid incandescents coated in white
- Get as much morning sunlight as possible
- Block blue light as much as possible at night
- 400-485 nanometer wavelength
- RA Optics
- Avoid artificial light (night and morning)
- Simulate sunlight as much as possible (infrared)
- Only use red light in the evening
- Candles (fragrance-free, beeswax)
- Hidden smartphone red screen trick
- Use Iris Techon all your monitors
- Use anti-glare computer monitor
- Eizo monitor(Ben uses the Flex Scan)
- Use Light Dimswhile traveling
- Bright light on the skin can affect the circadian rhythm
- Install a Drift Boxon your TV
- Don't overuse sunglasses
- Use photobiomodulation as much as possible
-How Matt Maruca became interested in light and blue-light blockers [41:55]
- At age 14, didn't feel good in general; had acne issues
- Changed diet to Paleo
- Previous common health issues fixed themselves (thought they were genetic)
- Influences: Ben Greenfield, Mark Sisson, Chris Kresser
- Discovered epigenetics
- Wandered from diet to diet with no real positive results to show for it
- Discovered cold thermogenesis
- Douglas Wallacelinked dysfunctional mitochondria to chronic disease
- Focused on the fuel rather than the engine as the cause of his illnesses
- Explains why some people thrive on certain diets and others don't
- Mitochondrial dysfunction is the problem; light is the solution
-The study of light exposure throughout history [58:00]
- Several civilizations have studied the efficacy of light on human health
- Egyptian Pharaoh was excluded from the annals of history because he believed in the power of light to enlightenhis people
- Hippocrates prescribed sunbathing often
- Ancient Greek athletes used heliotherapy in their training
- Christoph Hufeland, pioneer in macrobiotics, wrote of the deleterious effects of a lack of light on the body and spirit
- 90% of kids had some sign of Rickets Disease during Industrial Revolution (lack of Vitamin D)
- In 1903, Niels Finsen discovers UV light from sun kills TB of the skin (wins Nobel Prize for Medicine)
- Auguste Rollier opens heliotherapy clinic in Swiss Alps in 1903
- These discoveries create a “sun craze” – high in enthusiasm, low in knowledge
- The modern indoor lifestyle causes our body to crave sunlight; however, the skin has not adapted for the level of sunlight we crave, hence the problems we see today
-The horrors of working and living under fluorescent lights [1:12:30]
- 1980 study found the incidence of malignant melanoma is much higher among office workers; lowest risk was sunbathers
- Can cause mutations in culture of animal cells
- From 1957-80, no change in ozone levels in Norway; yet rate of malignant melanoma raised among men
- Skin cancer rates have skyrocketed since 1900; yet most people work indoors
- 2016 study showed that avoiding the sun is worse than smoking
- You can develop a tolerance for sunlight with “solar callouses”
- Know when your body is warning you
-How sunlight affects the body [1:19:00]
- Benefits of ultraviolet light
- Activates synthesis of Vitamin D
- Lowers blood pressure (release of nitric oxide)
- Increases efficiency of the heart
- Improves EKG readings and reduces cholesterol
- Avoidance of the sun is a form of malnutrition
- You can never mimic ultraviolet light
- Light is our life source; cells are designed to attract and capture light
- Organisms emit UV light for up to 18 hours after dying (soul leaving the body after death)
-The importance of the circadian rhythm to our health [1:26:45]
- Circadian rhythm
- “Circadian” comes from two Latin words: circa(approximately) dias (one day)
- Jesus spoke of the eyes as an indicator of our overall health, physical and spiritual
- Eyes use a disproportionate amount of energy relative to its weight and size
- Light coming into the eyes regulates the hypothalamus, which regulates the autonomic nervous system
- 1953 study showed a circadian rhythm in every living creature
- Blue light blocking glasses need to block only light that reaches the inner retina, not all light
- The Circadian Code by Dr. Satchin Panda
- BGF podcast w/ Dr. Panda
- If we're ingesting even healthy substances when our engine needs to be shutting down, we're shooting ourselves in the foot
- Melatonin optimizes our body, repairs mitochondrial DNA
- We need darkness after sunset to secrete melatonin properly
- Blue Light Has a Dark Side (Harvard Health)
- Artificial light:
- Created to extend work hours
- Contain tremendous amounts of blue light
- Harms our circadian rhythm
-Matt Maruca's Light Diet Protocol [1:49:50]
- Sleep (and wake) with the sun
- Doing otherwise disrupts the circadian rhythm
- Avoid artificial light, sleep as close to dusk as possible
- Replace bulbs w/ red bulbs
- Blue free bulbs
- Vintage Edison incandescent light bulbs
- Sleeping after 10 pm can be harmful to the nervous system
- Avoid screens after dark
- Iris Tech
- RA Opticsblue light blocking glasses (Use code BEN10 for 10% off)
- Rise with the sun and bathe in the morning light
- Go to sleep early enough to rise with the sun
- Set an alarm for 30 minutes before sunrise for 7 days
- Avoid exposure to artificial light
- Practice sun gazing
- One hour walk outside can affect seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Sunglasses are disruptive
- Pink skin isn't a bad thing
- Live outdoors during the day
- Consume fatty seafood
- Good for the eyes and the brain
- Consume clean spring water
- Allows us to hold light better; much better than municipal or city water
- The Fourth Phase of Water by Gerald Pollack
- Bathe in cold water
- Cools our surfaces, allows us to assimilate with the light
- BGF podcast on cold thermogenesis w/ Dr. Jack Kruse
- Avoid man-made electromagnetic radiation
- Cultivate your inner light
- The light is who you are (your soul)
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
– RA Optics (Matt Maruca's blue light blocking glasses company. Use code BEN10 for 10% off)
– Ben's new book at BoundlessBook.com – which has a whole chapter on light and other hidden environmental variables that affect your health
– Book: The Influence of the Blue Ray of Sunlight by A. J. Pleasonton
– Book: Light Therapeutics by John Harvey Kellogg
– Book: The Circadian Code by Dr. Satchin Panda
– Book: The Fourth Phase of Water by Gerald Pollack
–Kion Coffee: Carefully selected and roasted for taste, purity, high antioxidants and health. Ben Greenfield Fitness listeners, receive a 10% discount off your entire order when you use discount code: BGF10.
–JOOVV: After using the Joovv for close to 2 years, it's the only light therapy device I'd ever recommend. Give it a try: you won't be disappointed. Order using my link and receive a nice bonus gift with your order!
–Vuori: Activewear and athletic clothing for ultimate performance. Vuori is built to move and sweat in, yet designed with a West Coast aesthetic that transitions effortlessly into everyday life. Receive 25% off your first order when you use discount code: BENG25