Can Sunlight Stop Nearsightedness?

Posted on July 13, 2011 · Posted in General

Let’s face it…despite its sweltering surface temperature of an estimated 5,780 Kelvin, our sun is pretty cool customer. Think about all the great stuff it does: allows plants to grow and produce foods, helps us convert Vitamin D into a form our bodies can use, and it even finds time to heap two full scoops of raisins into each box of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran.

But recent research suggests that the sun might be even more awesome than we originally thought.  People have long-believed that what we do with our eyes influences their development.  That’s why our parents always got on our cases about sitting too close to the TV, or reading a book too close to the end of our noses, or making stupid faces that would “stay like that if the wind changed direction”.  What?  You never heard that last part?  Me either, then.  The point is that it’s believed how we use our eyes contributes to the development of the need for correction (ie. glasses or contact lenses).  That plus the family genes.

So when the University of Sydney’s Kathryn Rose and CNN recently discussed the potential role of the sun in limiting the development of nearsightedness, people took notice. For those who like the abridged version of stories, Rose discussed research from the US, China, and Singapore showing a consistent link between the amount of time spent outside in the sun and the prevention of nearsightedness, or myopia.  Her hypothesis is that sunlight blocks a chemical responsible for eye growth (more growth = more nearsightedness).

These studies are interesting because they suggest that it isn’t really the close tasks such as reading and video games that are influencing the development of myopia.  It’s the fact that these tasks are being done indoors away from natural sunlight.

Time and more research will hopefully tell the full story.  But until then, what do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts.