Winter Weight Explained By Sunlight


Many of us struggle with an annual pattern of getting lean in the summer and then putting on weight during the winter. While some of this has to do with a lack of activity and large holiday feasts, it looks like there might be another reason! According to a STUDY published in 2017, scientists have found a significant link between exposure to sunlight, and the shrinking of fat cells! During the 8 months of the year that Seattleites are not getting enough sunlight, it is not just our nutritional habits holding us back.

The Science

Peter Light, from the Alberta Diabetes Institute, and his team examined the effect of sunlight on subcutaneous white adipose tissue, or white fat cells that can be found right beneath our skin. This type of fat is typically known as “bad fat,” and is a “central player in regulating the whole body metabolism.”

Light and his team found that when these white fat cells are exposed to “blue light,” they tend to shrink a significant amount! To put this discovery to the test, they examined the effect of the sun’s blue light on the fat cells of patients undergoing weight loss surgery.

Peter Light said,

“When the sun’s blue light wavelengths — the light we can see with our eye — penetrate our skin and reach the fat cells just beneath, lipid droplets reduce in size and are released out of the cell. In other words, our cells don’t store as much fat.”

This means that during the 8 months a year where we are failing to get enough sunlight are slowing down our metabolism, and partly responsible for that “winter weight.”

Light makes sure to caution that this information is still very new and that there are a lot of variables that are still unknown. We are currently unable to recommend appropriate duration or intensity of light exposure to maximize metabolic results. In addition, there are risks with sun exposure that you should weigh carefully before amping up your sunlight intake.

Practical Application

As Seattleites, we get more “sun-starved” that most parts of the world. This means that when we get nice days, make sure that you take advantage of the opportunity and get outside in the sun. Also be aware that your metabolism is taking a hit in the winter months, and that you need to take care of your body in other ways to compensate.

  1. Make an effort to get sunshine when you can
  2. Be careful not to get too much sun, and avoid getting burnt
  3. Optimize your body’s metabolism in the ways you can control
  4. Drink Kombucha regularly to maintain a healthy gut, and aid digestion

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