University of Alberta researchers have found (accidentally) the fat cells that lie just beneath our skin shrink when exposed to the blue light emitted by the sun in a breakthrough new study.
How Sunlight Burns Fat
Light and team examined the so-called subcutaneous white adipose tissue (scWAT), which, as the authors explain, is the “major fat depot in humans and a central player in regulating whole body metabolism.” White fat is known as the “bad” type of fat that we see in obesity that leads to metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.
“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,” said Peter Light (ironic name, eh?), senior author of the study and professor of pharmacology as well as the director of UAlberta’s Alberta Diabetes Institute.
“If you flip our findings around, the insufficient sunlight exposure we get eight months of the year living in a northern climate may be promoting fat storage and contribute to the typical weight gain some of us have over winter,” he added.
The discovery was made while investigating how to bio-engineer fat cells to produce insulin in response to light to help Type 1 diabetes patients. “It was serendipitous,” said Light, “we noticed the reaction in human tissue cells in our negative control experiments, and since there was nothing in the literature, we knew it was important to investigate further.”
Based on the finding, the fat cells we store near our skin may be a peripheral biological clock, said Light. “It’s early days, but it’s not a giant leap to suppose that the light that regulates our circadian rhythm, received through our eyes, may also have the same impact through the fat cells near our skin.”
He goes on to explain that the molecular pathway they discovered was first identified as being activated by the eye when exposed to the blue wavelengths in sunlight. “That’s why you are not supposed to look at digital devices before bed because they emit the same blue light the sun does that signals us to wake up.”
To Learn More
To learn more about the healing properties of the sun, read “Healthy Sun: Healing With Sunshine And The Myths About Skin Cancer,” by Case Adams, because despite what you hear on the evening news about the dangers of the sun, the truth is that the list of health benefits of the sun continues to grow…
P.S. If you need me, I’ll probably be outside. 😉