Sunny on the inside, redheads are able to produce high levels of vitamin D when exposed to low levels of UV light. Not only is this important to gingers’ survival (we must avoid the sun at all costs!), but it can also contribute to our mental health and wellbeing, too.
During the winter months, the term Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often discussed, which is a mood disorder which symptoms include having little energy, oversleeping and other depressive feelings. It is believed by many that the general lack of sunlight during winter is what triggers this depression in some people who might otherwise have normal health.
One theory of why this happens is the lack of vitamin D being produced by your body when it is exposed to sunlight. Our vitamin D receptors are located in the brain tissue, which when activated, increase nerve growth in your brain, making it important for all-round brain function. It also helps to synthesise dopamine and serotonin, both feel-good chemicals released in the brain that can help control mood balance.
With redheads’ nifty trick of self-boosting vitamin D, they are at a much lower risk of SAD. In fact, researchers believe that there is a link between skin pigmentation and vitamin D levels. People with darker skin tones are at a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency as they require higher concentrations of UV light to generate sufficient vitamin D. This is because darker skin blocks UV rays (which is why they don’t burn), but at the same time this means that vitamin D production happens at a much lower rate. Inversely, pale skin colours are more susceptible to harmful UV rays, leading to burning, but are actually more efficient at generating vitamin D. Voilà, redheads.
So, if you find yourselves feeling rather chipper at this gloomy January weather, it might be down to your genius ginger genetics.
Here’s to being sunny on the inside!