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04.11.2022


The BDNF Files | How summer & sunlight make you smarter and happier

While some sun-phobic dermatologists would prefer to lock humanity up in their homes when the sun is out, an overwhelming body of scientific studies show that normal exposure to sunlight is healthy. It is not without reason that exposure to sunlight extends life span. A Dutch study suggests that sunlight also protects against depression, anxiety and dementia. Sunlight increases the concentration of BDNF in the blood.


The BDNF Files | How summer & sunlight make you smarter and happier


Study
In 2012, psychologists from Leiden University published a study of Leiden in PLoS One, using data from 2851 participants in the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. About forty percent of the study participants were healthy, about a quarter used antidepressants.

Several times during a year, the researchers took blood samples from the study participants in which they measured the concentration of brain-derived neurotrophic factor [BDNF].

BDNF is a hormone that keeps brain cells healthy and stimulates the formation of new connections between them. BDNF plays an important role in cognitive abilities and learning processes. In neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease, as well as depression and anxiety, the activity of BDNF is reduced.


The BDNF Files | How summer & sunlight make you smarter and happier


Results
Over the period of a year, the concentration of BDNF in the blood of the study participants is at its lowest point in March. Then it starts to rise until it reaches its highest point in September.


The BDNF Files | How summer & sunlight make you smarter and happier


The BDNF Files | How summer & sunlight make you smarter and happier


The researchers knew how many hours the sun had been shining during the collection of the blood samples. The above shows the relationship between the number of hours of sunshine in a period of 10 weeks before the sample was taken. More hours of sun means a higher concentration of BDNF.

You can see this above.

Conclusion
"Although much remains to be understood with regard to these associations and notwithstanding some limitations, we believe that these results invite for a perspective on BDNF related mechanisms in which seasonality is engrained", write the Dutch.

Source:
PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e48046.

More:
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The BDNF Files | How dietary flavonoids and carotenoids protect against depression 04.01.2022
The BDNF Files | Ginkgo enhances the positive effect of physical activity on your brain 03.11.2018

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