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john65pennington's avatar

How do scientist make the determination that the sun's rays contain Vitamin C and E?

Asked by john65pennington (29057 points ) November 13th, 2011

Do scientists have some magic trick up their sleeves to calculate that the sun’s rays contain Vitamin C and E? The rays from the sun are not liquid, so a computer cannot calculate this information. The rays from the sun cannot be captured in a bottle to give them this conclusion.

Question: so, how do scientist come to the conclusion that the rays from the sun contain Vitamin C and E and other essentials, so important for the survival of man on earth?

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38 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Does the sun contain C and E? All I know about is D. I think it is like a precursor to D, and our bodies produce the D with the sun’s rays. Not sure how they measure. Interesting question. I do know that one cannot OD from D by being in the sun, but we can by taking vitamin D pills.

gailcalled's avatar

Good question; wrong vitamins.

Vit. C is the scurvy vitamin. Remember the British sailers who needed to eat limes on shipboard? Found also in green peppers, lemons, oranges, parsley and broccoli.

Vit. E is an oily vitamin found in mustard greens, chard, sunflower seeds, and turnip greens. Very good sources include almonds and spinach.

The sunshine vitamin is D. There’s a decent article on the history of its discovery in Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_D

laureth's avatar

Vitamin D forms on your skin when the sun strikes it, not because the sunlight contains Vitamin D, but as a reaction between the sun’s UV rays and your own cholesterol.

Here you go.

bkcunningham's avatar

I love your question, @john65pennington. It shows you are thinking. Good for you.

http://www.vitamindrevolution.com/how-do-we-get-our-vitamin-d/

JLeslie's avatar

@laureth Now that is extremely interesting. Considering my family is very very pale and also has high cholesterol. I think high cholesterol runs in many northern and eastern european families.

john65pennington's avatar

Okay, the vitamins may be incorrect, but I still have a need to know.

gailcalled's avatar

And now you know, my little chickadee.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie Fair skin metabolizes the Vit. D from the sun more efficiently than dark skin…...that’s one of the reasons why white folks were able to survive successfully in cold places like Sweden, when most of their bodies were covered with clothes and not exposed to the sun.

@john65pennington Well, it’s like any other experiment. You measure the level of Vitamin D in the liver before and then after exposure to sun.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Yeah, I know. But since cholesterol is also needed to synthesize the vitamin, I found that iteresting. Meanwhile, I personally can’t seem to get enough D.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well…maybe they don’t need as much cholesterol as other folks because they are so efficient at metabolizing the vitamin D Is low cholesterol bad, anyway? I don’t know…

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Low cholesterol is associated with cancer, but I think most likely that is because people who don’t die young from heart disease have more of a chance to develop cancer, but I don’t know the science around the causation really. Actually, vitamin D is thought to protect against cancers so maybe low cholesterol and low D absorption is part of the whole thing. Again, interesting.

bkcunningham's avatar

Hhmm. I like this question. I like reading @JLeslie and @Dutchess_III‘s back and forth. Very nice. Thanks again, @john65pennington. Good question and lots of thoughtful answers. You’ve got me thinking @JLeslie.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Dutchess_III's avatar

But wait..your people have HIGH vitamin D absorption @JLeslie….

I had to go Google low cholesterol. Found this.

“Generally speaking, lower cholesterol is good….......although the risks are rare, low levels of LDL cholesterol may increase your risk of:
Cancer
Depression
Anxiety
Preterm birth and low birth weight if your cholesterol is low while you’re pregnant”

So, maybe they have low cholesterol because they don’t need higher levels like other people do.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Right, I have high, which makes sense maybe from an evolutinary standpoint, because my people were living in cold climates, so we needed pale skin, and now with this info maybe higher cholesterol. Your link agrees with what I said above, low choesterol higher cancer rates. My family high cholesterol, white skin, high rates of heart disease, only one relative I know of had cancer on my moms side, no one on my fathers side.

gasman's avatar

Here’s some info straight from NIH (National Institutes of Health):

Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin for good reason. During exposure to sunlight, the ultraviolet B photons enter the skin and photolyze 7-dehydrocholesterol to previtamin D3 which in turn is isomerized by the body’s temperature to vitamin D3. Most humans have depended on sun for their vitamin D requirement. Skin pigment, sunscreen use, aging, time of day, season and latitude dramatically affect previtamin D3 synthesis

Obvious the sun doesn’t beam vitamin D directly through space lol! There’s plenty of uv to go around, however.

Vitamin C is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin because of its association with citrus fruit, which typically grow in sunny climates. Disney World in Florida, early in its history, had a “sunshine tree” sponsored by Sunkist oranges.

I can’t think of a connection between sunshine and vitamin E.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@gasman I don’t think any of us thought that the sun “beamed vitamin D through the air” We all understand that the UV rays synthesize in the body, via absorption from the skin, to create the vitamin D, which is stored in our livers. And we now know that light skinned people are better suited to survive in cold climates because of the fact that lighter skin absorbs the UV rays more effectively than dark skin, hence, the Swedes were born.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Hence the Swedes were born. Hysterical.

The trouble is in modern times any woman who does anything for her skin, probably has SPF in her face cream, wears sunglasses to protect her retina and from cataracts, and in the cold, all parts of our body are covered with clothing. Even in warm weather if we work during the day we are clothed and SPF’d. So, now, tons and tons of women are D dificient. SPF blocks the very B rays that give us D.

gasman's avatar

@Dutchess_III The way the question was worded I wasn’t so sure.
@john65pennington, what did you mean by ”...a computer cannot calculate this information?”

john65pennington's avatar

Gasman, how do scientist capture the rays of the sun, in order for a computer to calculate this information? I am 67 and have yet to be able to catch a few rays of the sun and can it for a rainy day.

gasman's avatar

There are many materials whose electrical properties are sensitive to light, which form the basis for precision light detectors of various kinds. Spectrometry or narrow optical filtering can precisely measure the quantity of sunlight at a specific frequency or wavelength or photon energy—all equivalent descriptions of electromagnetic radiation.

They “catch” the rays by sampling a stream of photons using highly accurate detectors (it’s an old and mature technology). Likewise when people “catch rays” at the beach they are “using” the rays in real time, not literally storing them for later use in the dark as one might “catch” fireflies in a jar! Uh, was that the question?

Of course the energy of the sun’s rays can be partially stored in batteries or other devices, though that’s not related to vitamin & health issues. Skin cells “store” photons for maybe a few femto-seconds, a typical chemical reaction time. But those ultraviolet photons can really pack a wallop at the molecular level.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie. OK. I shall re-word it. The lighter the skin the better the chances of the offspring surviving (rickets is a killer child-hood disease.) So, over a period of several thousand years, natural selection favored lighter skin, the lighter the better, the lighter the more survived, so eventually the white race came into being.

In modern times they add vitamin D (and iodine and other vitamins and minerals) to our food (read the labels.) We don’t need to rely on our skin being exposed to help us synthesize it naturally. If we did, those poor kids with that illness who can never, ever go into any sunlight wouldn’t stand a chance. But rickets is the least of their worries, thanks to modern technology and medicine.

@john65pennington Here

“American researchers Elmer McCollum and Marguerite Davis in 1913 discovered a substance in cod liver oil which later was called “vitamin A”. British doctor Edward Mellanby noticed dogs that were fed cod liver oil did not develop rickets and concluded vitamin A, or a closely associated factor, could prevent the disease. In 1921, Elmer McCollum tested modified cod liver oil in which the vitamin A had been destroyed. The modified oil cured the sick dogs, so McCollum concluded the factor in cod liver oil which cured rickets was distinct from vitamin A. He called it vitamin D because it was the fourth vitamin to be named.[16][17][18] It was not initially realized that, unlike other vitamins, vitamin D can be synthesised by humans through exposure to UV light.

In 1923, it was established that when 7-dehydrocholesterol is irradiated with light, a form of a fat-soluble vitamin is produced (now known as D3). Alfred Fabian Hess showed “light equals vitamin D.”[19] Adolf Windaus, at the University of Göttingen in Germany, received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1928, for his work on the constitution of sterols and their connection with vitamins.[20] In the 1930s he clarified further the chemical structure of vitamin D.[21]

In 1923, Harry Steenbock at the University of Wisconsin demonstrated that irradiation by ultraviolet light increased the vitamin D content of foods and other organic materials.[22] After irradiating rodent food, Steenbock discovered the rodents were cured of rickets. A vitamin D deficiency is a known cause of rickets. Using $300 of his own money, Steenbock patented his invention. His irradiation technique was used for foodstuffs, most memorably for milk. By the expiration of his patent in 1945, rickets had been all but eliminated in the US.[23]“_

Long story short….lotsa people out there WAY smarter than us!!:

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III There is simply not enough D in our food. If you protect your skin, and are very white, I suggest you get a Vitamin D test next time you get blood drawn. I don’t know anyone who stays out of the sun, or protects themselves all the time with SPF, who isn’t dificient. Unless they are taking extra D in pill form. When I say extra I mean more than what comes in daily multivitamins. I seem to remember you take high dose vitamins? So, your might be ok. I currently had to up my dose again. I take almost 70,000 IU’s a week right now because my numbers dropped so much again, daily vitamins usually have 400 iu’s a day.

bkcunningham's avatar

How many 8 oz. glasses of milk does it take to meet the USRDA of D3, @JLeslie? I can’t remember, but it seemed like a lot. My memory fails me.

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham I think 4 glasses. The RDA is way too low. Well, it is satisfactory to prevent rickets, but it is believed D deficiency is related to many other things. I personally believe it affects neuromuscular health, and some studies imply it helps protect against cancers, and it is implicated to help regulate the parathyroid. Some blame it on some autoimmune diseases. Diseases like MS cluster more inthe upper midwest where they get much less sunlight, so that is an interesting part of the puzzle.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Um, no. I don’t take vitamins. But I’ve never heard of anyone in this country being deficient in vitamin D. I know I’m not.

If you feel that this is really a problem, you need to convince people to eat fish, especially herring, as you can get the daily recommended ‘IU’ (Whatever the hell IU stands for) of vitamin D in a snap. Herring provides 1383 IUD per serving.

And, of course, we have the cool, see-through, pure vitamin D yellow capsules you can eat or break open to see what’s inside.

And milk and yogurt and cheese etc..

There is no excuse for anyone in this country to be deficient in vitamin D, or any other vitamin. Unless they’re just dumb.

JLeslie's avatar

International units.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I’m not confusing you with someone else am I? You are in America right? Here is a study citing the upsurge in D deficiency. The increases are not valid, but the current numbers are. The increases in the last 30–40 years should be ignored because the normal range for D has been increased.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie is correct, there is an increase in Vit D deficiency. The problem is that nobody really knows if it’s clinically significant or not. Last year at a critical care conference I went to a bunch of lectures on vitamin D in ICU. A bunch of people are measuring it and seeing correlation with outcomes but nobody repeat nobody was able to show that supplementation made any difference. Time will tell.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear A while back I saw information on a study done at University of Miami that showed a strong correlation between parathyroid function with the cut off at 32, which I think is now the new parameter, the lowest considered normal in the US now. I don’t really understand what the parathyroid does though. Have you heard or seen more information on that specifically? I think a lot of the correlations might be invalid actually regarding vitamin D, even though I strongly believe it has helped a lot of people. A lot of the studies seem to just look at people with low numbers and the incidents of various diseases, instead of looking at if they improve with more D. However, from what you wrote I guess there have been some studies to try and measure that very thing.

Do you happen to know if D deficiency as defined by todays range, shows up more in women than men?

Rarebear's avatar

The parathyroid regulates calcium.
Not sure on your range question.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Oh, thank you. I had not understood that before. My calcium levels are always good, although I guess it is hard to know what my bones look like, I have not had a scan. I get my calcium checked 2–3 times a year since I take such high doses of D. Does the parathyroid have anything to do with thyroid function?

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie No. They’re just anatomically in the same location.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, maybe everyone should stop wearing sun screen!

Rarebear's avatar

@Dutchess_III No, skin cancer is worse than vitamin D deficiency.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Do you think, or know, since D is fat soluble is it reasonable to assume that if levels go down quickly when lowering, or stopping supplementation, that the body is using/needing the D?

Rarebear's avatar

No I don’t know, sorry

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