A daily dose of sunshine reduces children’s risk for IBD, study finds

CANBERRA, Australia — Here’s another reason to get your kids outside every day: a new study finds that children who spend at least a half-hour a day in the sunshine have a significantly reduced risk for developing either inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) later in life.

IBD is the blanket name for two painful lifelong conditions: colitis and Crohn’s disease. These two conditions affect millions, worldwide. But researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) say their study could help prevent many from suffering from these ailments.

“Taking children to play outside in the sun could be life-changing,” says Robyn Lucas, a professor in ANU’s College of Health and Medicine, in a statement. “It doesn’t have to be all at the same time. But, we found children who were outside and exposed to the sun for an extra half hour a day in total, had a lower risk of developing IBD by almost 20 percent.”

Lucas based their pediatric study in Melbourne, Australia, where they recruited 99 children who were being treated for IBD at two large hospitals. Patients’ parents completed surveys on daily sun exposure, sensitivity to sunlight, and other related questions, along with demographic information.

Researchers found that children don’t need long doses of sunshine to enjoy the positive effect.

“We found every 10 minutes of sun exposure was associated with a lower risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease by six per cent,” says Lucas. “At this stage what we have shown is there is a link between lack of sun exposure and increased risk of IBD.”

Previous research showed that sunshine positively affected the immune system in ways that researchers thought could reduce the risk for IBD, but the pathways are unknown.

The study is published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.

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