The sun is shining, not burning, in the sky

Bright sun shining in the clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds

Credit: EPSTOCK/

When the sun is shining, vitamin D is formed in the capillaries of the skin (from metabolites of cholesterol). Vitamin D is really not a vitamin at all but one of the most important steroids in the human body without which many cells – including neurons – of the body cannot function properly. All sorts of diseases and disorders result or are worsened if there is not a sufficient level of vitamin D in body tissues. This is true for disorders of bone, skin and brain, but also of cancers and heart disease, and most likely the immune system.

At the GNC, in collaboration with other international research groups in the UK and Australia, we have studied vitamin D in autism. We have found that pregnant mothers of children who later will get a diagnosis of autism have low levels of vitamin D, newborn babies who later are recognized as having autism also have very low levels, children and adults with autism have lower vitamin D-levels than people who do not have autism. We consider it very reasonable to suggest vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy and in the first few years of life and that the blood level of vitamin D be measured in all children and adults with autism and related disorders, so that they can receive supplementation if needed.

However, synthetic vitamin D is not as good for the brain as the vitamin D produced by the human body in connection with sun exposure. The vast majority of the world’s population (including children) need sun exposure. Sunshine has always been one of the best sources of ”health” (much like air and clean water). Most of us have a safe warning sign (called erythema/slight redness) that will let us know when we have had enough. We should then get out of the sun (or put on some reasonable clothing). It is extremely worrying that people are instead told that they should be using sunscreen (containing a number of substances that may have very harmful effects, including infertility and, indirectly, cancer from extreme overuse of the combination of sunscreen and sun exposure).

When the sun is shining in Japan, umbrellas are just as common a sight as when it rains. In Sweden, preschool children are not allowed to spend time outdoors, some preschools will not even let them out if the sun is shining. Sunscreen is smeared all over young people’s bodies much to the delight of the ever-growing giant of the sunscreen industry. When will this madness end?

Christopher GillbergBlog post by Christopher Gillberg

Credit: Magnus Gotander

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Christopher Gillberg is Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, since the mid-1980s. He heads the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre since 2010. He is also a Chief Physician at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital and one of the world’s most experienced, clinically active, child- and adolescent psychiatrists, with 45 years of extensive clinical work in treatment of patients and families with complex psychiatric/neurodevelopmental problems.
In 1993 he was Fulbright Visiting Professor at New York University Medical School. He is also Visiting or Honorary Professor at the Universities of London, University College London (Institute of Child Health), University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh, the Pasteur Institute, and Kochi University, Japan (where he is involved with the Japan Environment and Children Study/JECS). In the past he has been a Visiting Professor at Odense, Bergen (where he started and was PI on the Bergen Child Study), and San Francisco. Christopher Gillberg has published more than 700 peer-reviewed scientific papers (of which 670 are currently on the NIH PubMed website) on autism, Asperger syndrome, ADHD, Tourette syndrome, intellectual disability, epilepsy, behavioural phenotype syndromes, depression, reactive attachment disorder, anorexia nervosa, and other areas relevant for children’s and adolescents’ mental and neurological health. His research ranges from genetics and basic neuroscience through epidemiology and clinical phenomenology to treatments/interventions and outcome. He has written 34 books, which have been published in more than a dozen languages, several of which are standard textbooks in the field of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Autism. He is an honorary member of the Swedish National Autism Society and ADHD Society ("Attention"). He is a member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters. He is the recipient of many national and international awards including the Fernström Prize for young researchers (1991), the Royal Medal of the Seraphim Order from the Swedish King (2009), the Söderberg Prize in Medicine (2012) and INSAR Lifetime Achievement Award (2016). He supervises and has supervised more than 45 PhD students at the GNC and at other universities across the world. Christopher Gillberg is the most productive autism researcher in the world and is on Thomson Reuter’s 2014 list of the world’s most influential researchers (all fields).

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