Improve your health by staring at the sun? (Um NO)

August 7th, 2007
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Now here is an interesting “alternative health” practice. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution there are some folks out there who swear that the sun is what it takes to make you feel healthier, suppress hunger, loose weight, improve mental health and more. Only they are not saying to go outside and get some sunshine – no, they suggest you hold your eyes open and STARE DIRECTLY INTO THE SUN.

Hira Ratan Manek, a retired spice trader, claims he has rediscovered the ancient knowledge of the Greeks, Native Americans and others who knew the key to health and vitality was the burning of your own retina. According to the article:

Manek, 70, advocates staring at the sun only near sunrise and sunset. Start with just 10 seconds, he says, and add 10 seconds each time. He says sun gazing suppresses hunger and has allowed him to go more than a year without eating solid foods.

I am not sure if that means he has lived on smoothies or whether he is suggesting that he actually has not eaten anything, but in any case, both claims are about as crazy as the idea of staring at the sun. There’s a good reason not to do so, which is similar to the reason not to stare at arc welders or nuclear explosions: The intensity of the light from the sun can do some very serious damage to your vision. Catching a glance of the sun directly is unlikely to do much damage, but certainly is not good for you, and looking directly at the sun for more than a second or so might not cause appreciable damage if it only occurs once or twice, but doing it every day????

Your eye, after all, has a big lens in front of it’s job is to focus light on your retina so that it can be detected by photo-sensitive cells and transmitted to your brain. The sun, however, is not your average ambient light source. Just put a lens to the sun and aim the beam at a leaf, or your hand and you’ll know pretty quickly that the light, when concentrated, is enough to do some real damage. And your retina is very sensitive, especially to the damaging effects of sunlight, which contains both high intensity visible light and harmful UV rays.

The article does present a voice of sanity, however:

Dr. Sunil Srivastava, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Emory University, says there’s no evidence of benefits from sun-gazing in the scientific literature. Quite the opposite.
“From a retina specialist point of view, there is risk associated with staring at the sun for a long period of time,” Srivastava says. “Just because it doesn’t happen the first 10 times you’ve done it doesn’t mean it’s not going to cause damage the next time.”

But many of these “Sun gazers” claim they can start at the sun for minutes at a time, and that they have no damage despite following the practice for years. It is possible that the effects are diminished if it is done at dawn or dusk, when the sun’s light is less intense, and because over time, their sensitivity to light would be gradually reduced by the practice, at a rate slow to notice immediately. But even if the damage is not noticeable immediately noticeable. It would not be surprising to find out some of the “sun gazers” have suffered reduced light sensitivity, blind spots and general retinal degeneration.

There’s a reason why your kindergarten teacher told you not to stare into the sun and why it hurts if you do so: It’s not good for your eyes and has no proven benefits. It seems pretty obvious that it’s just not a good idea to stare at the sun, but apparently it is lost on some…

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2007 at 5:22 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Quackery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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5 Responses to “Improve your health by staring at the sun? (Um NO)”

  1. 1
    Soylent Says:

    “…loose weight…”

    The implication of loosening body weight is pretty humorous.

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  2. 2
    jay Says:

    I understand you feel that the idea is a little crazy! But think with a open mind the government said fluoride was good for our teeth. But i/we know its not and can cause health risk and calcify your pineal gland! The medicine the doctors perscribe are toxic and don’t cure illness and usually cause many side effects. So if you are not skeptical of curing cancer with chemo (radiation). This should be nothing. The vitamin D one would gain from the sun is enough to cure all diseases within the body.

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  3. 3
    Anon Says:

            jay said:

    The vitamin D one would gain from the sun is enough to cure all diseases within the body.

    Then why do people who spend their life outside taking in the sun’s ray keep getting skin cancer?

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  4. 4
    DV82XL Says:

    …and yet they run screaming from a few pico curies of radiation barely above background….

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  5. 5
    drbuzz0 Says:

            jay said:

    The vitamin D one would gain from the sun is enough to cure all diseases within the body.

    Of course, there is genuine benefit from some exposure to sunlight. It’s good to go outside – it has an effect on SAD and helps maintain good circadian rhythms. Going outside in the sun often includes physical activity, which is certainly beneficial. I’d never say you should just avoid sunlight entirely.

    That’s not the same as saying someone should start into the sun while holding their eyes open.

    As for vitamin D: Yes, it is an important nutrient, but it will not “cure all diseases within the body.” It is necessary to proper absorption of calcium. It has some other functions in the body. It will not stop all disease. That’s a crock of bull.

    Like most vitamins, there is a minimum level required for the body to preform all functions, but little or no evidence of benefit beyond this level.

    Vitamin D is produced by the skin when exposed to UV light. Significant quantities are produced even with moderate exposure to sunlight. However, there is no evidence that the vitamin D produced by the skin is different from that absorbed from food or that it is necessary to have it at all, providing that adequate nutritional vitamin D exists. In humans nutrition is the primary source of vitamin D.

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