By Dr. Marc Sorenson, Sunlight Institute
Stay slim with sun exposure? New, never considered research adds a reason to stay active in the sun. The blue-light spectrum of sunlight, a spectrum that can penetrate the skin, can cause subdermal fat tissue to decrease in size. In other words, it can cause fat loss. Thus, the action of sunlight may help one to stay slim or become slim. The researchers showed that daily exposure of differentiated adipocytes [fat cells] to blue light resulted in decreased lipid droplet size and increased basal lipolytic [fat breakdown] rate.
The researchers had been doing research on light and diabetes, and they serendipitously found that the light could be an asset in maintaining (or producing) a slim body. But there are many other studies that show sun exposure is capable of assisting the body in being slim. For example: here is another benefit of sun exposure—morning sun specifically: A recent study from Northwestern Medicine demonstrates that timing and intensity of light correlate with body mass index (BMI).
BMI is a numerical computation comparing height and weight, and is a commonly used method to assess obesity or the lack thereof. A high BMI usually means a person is obese or at least approaching obesity, while optimal BMI is 18-25. Below 18 is considered underweight, above 25 is overweight, 30 is obese and 40 and above is morbidly obese. However, BMI does not work for heavily-muscled people, who may have minimal fat, but whose BMI puts them in an obese category—in reality, they are very slim.
This study showed that exposure to bright morning light was directly related to BMI. After adjusting for confounders such as diet, exercise and timing of sleep, it was determined that very early exposure to morning light correlated remarkably to lower BMI—they were slim, or at least slimmer. Even when light intensity was equal at different times of the day, those who received the earliest bright light had lower BMI. Most noteworthy was the fact that for each hour later in the day when light exposure occurred, BMI increased by 1.3 units. This fact is especially relevant, since a person who has a BMI of 25 (upper ideal range) could approach 30 (obesity), over time, due to the habit of receiving sun exposure later in the day, e.g. 10:00 AM rather than 6:00 AM.
The authors suggested that the mechanisms by which early light exposure could influence the “slim” mechanisms, could be the following: (1) resetting the circadian rhythm (internal clock), (2) the greater quantity of blue light in morning sun and (3) effects on melatonin production. Whatever the mechanisms, we now know that early-morning sun is important to being slim. In addition, it may also be important to other health issues. Rather than think of sun exposure as the cure-all for obesity, we must realize that poor nutritional habits and lack of exercise are much more important. Nevertheless, sun exposure can furnish one more arrow in the quiver.
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