Sunshine acts like an addictive drug and has a similar effect on the body as heroin, scientists claim.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun stimulate the production of endorphins, "feel good" hormones that act on the same biological pathway as opioid drugs, research shows.
Sigh. Lots of things produce endorphins quite naturally. Just because heroin produces endorphins doesn't mean that all the other things are addictive or pernicious.
The study suggests that the desire to bake for hours on a beach involves more than topping up a tan.
Yes, black people like being in the sun too. Weird, huh?
It may appease our craving for a sunshine "fix", in much the same way as an addict satisfies a yearning for heroin or morphine.
It doesn't mean that at all.
Dr Fisher and his team investigated links between UV exposure and the opioid receptor pathway in "naked" laboratory mice.
After a week in the artificial sunshine, endorphin levels in the blood of shaved animals increased.
At the end of six weeks, the mice were given an opioid-blocking drug, naloxone. Abruptly denied the drug-like effects of UV, they suffered an array of withdrawal symptoms, including shaking, tremors and teeth chattering.
Gee, that's just like when we get back from a week's holiday in the sun. You know what it's like. You get back to grey old England and the tremors kick in, the teeth chattering begins and you start shaking like a leaf. Hell, we're just like junkies coming off smack.
No, wait. We don't do any of that, do we? Because sunshine isn't addictive and people aren't shaved lab mice.
Leaving aside the fact that this research is worthless, just imagine being a scientist who has discovered that sunshine—something that is free, natural and relatively abundant—creates the same pleasurable effect as opiates. Wouldn't that be good news? Wouldn't that be nice?
Not in these puritanical times of hypochondria and fear, it isn't...
Lead scientist Dr David Fisher, from Harvard Medical School in the US, said: "This information might serve as a valuable means of educating people to curb excessive sun exposure in order to limit skin cancer risk as well as accelerated skin ageing that occurs with repeated sun exposure.
"Our findings suggest that the decision to protect our skin or the skin of our children may require more of a conscious effort rather than a passive preference."
Or even maybe a little nudging from a benevolent government? After all, you can't expect people who are addicted to be able to make rational decisions for themselves, can you?
"It's surprising that we're genetically programmed to become addicted to something as dangerous as UV radiation..."
It is, isn't it? It would be evolutionary madness and that's another reason to think that it's not true.
"...which is probably the most common carcinogen in the world," said Dr Fisher, whose findings appear in the journal Cell.
"Probably the most common carcinogen in the world." There's a catchphrase coined right there. Cancer: It's Everywhere. I bet this guy is a riot at a party.
Refreshingly for a mainstream article about a junk study, the Standard includes quotes from not one but two scientists who basically say that the findings are bollocks. One points out that the study didn't bother using non-UV light for the control group. The other says that "mice are nocturnal animals, covered in fur, which avoid the light", therefore shaving them and putting them on a sunbed for seven days is somewhat unnatural.
This is all reminiscent of the 'biscuits are more addictive than cocaine' nonsense last year.