For most people the holiday season is a time of family and good feeling, and it’s also a time to put on some extra pounds. It is true that during the holidays we are exposed to more delicious food than the rest of the year, but studies have shown that even if people try to lose weight they have a harder time doing so during the winter. So why is that?
In a study by researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada it was found that the reason for winter weight gain may be due to the absence of sunlight.
Led by Peter Light from the Alberta Diabetes Institute, the researchers examined the effect of sunlight on subcutaneous fat cells, or white fat cells that can be found right beneath our skin. The so called subcutaneous white adipose tissue (scWAT) were examined.
While Light and his team were working on a way to genetically engineer these white fat cells to produce insulin when exposed to light, they accidentally discovered something quite different. they discovered that scWAT cells tend to shrink under the effect of the sun’s so-called blue light that is, the visible type of light that boosts attention and mood during the day.
Further testing on samples of scWAT from patients undergoing weight loss surgery revealed that when the sun’s blue light wavelengths reach the fat cells just beneath the skin, lipid droplets reduce in size and are released out of the cell. What this means is that when exposed to sunlight, our cells don’t store much fat.
Despite the findings, Light cautions against taking these findings too literally and pursuing sunlight exposure as a way to hopefully lose weight, as there are still many variables that remain unknown.
Either way, the team agrees that the discovery is exciting and holds many fascinating clues for researchers around the world to explore.