Tag Archives: obesity

The slimming, healing Sun.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, for safe sun exposure…

There is an alarming increase in obesity In the United States. Obesity is determined by a measurement called Body-mass index (BMI) which compares a person’s height with his weight and uses a mathematical formula for its calculation. To quickly calculate your BMI, go to this website: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm. A BMI less than 24.9 is considered normal; 25-29.9 overweight; 30 and over obese, and 40+ extremely (or morbidly) obese. Since the early 1960s the prevalence of obesity among adults more than doubled, increasing from 13.4% of adults in 1960 to 37.5% in 2010. We obviously have a severe problem, with two in three adults now either overweight or obese.[1]

There is little doubt as to the cause of obesity. We lack exercise, eat high-calorie junk foods and have moved away from sun exposure, this due to indoor living and a misguided fear of skin cancer. Most people would not put sun exposure in the list of causes, but research shows that it may play an important part in this increasing plague.

Marching in lockstep with the increase in obesity is an increase in type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which is defined as group of disorders (high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels and insulin resistance) that are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. This was the conclusion of a recent review on the influence of sun exposure on these conditions: “Overall, emerging findings suggest a protective role for UVR and sun exposure in reducing the development of obesity and cardiometabolic dysfunction.”[2]

Other research has led to similar conclusions. A recent study from Northwestern Medicine demonstrates that timing and intensity of light correlate with body mass index (BMI).[3] This research showed that exposure to bright morning light was directly related to BMI. After adjusting for confounders such as diet, exercise and sleep timing, it was determined that very early sun exposure correlated remarkably to lower BMI; even when light intensity was equal at different times of the day, those who received the earliest bright light had lower BMI. In fact, for each hour later in the day that the light exposure occurred, BMI increased by 1.28 units. This fact is exceptionally important, since a person who has a BMI of 25 (upper ideal range) could approach 30, or obesity, simply by the habit of sun exposure later in the day, i.e. 10:00 AM rather than 6:00 AM. The authors of this research suggested that the mechanisms involved in weight control by early light exposure 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 weight control. It may also be important to other health issues.

Another scientific paper was recently published that “sheds more light” on the subject of obesity.[4] This research was conducted on mice that were placed on a high-fat diet and then exposed to non-burning ultraviolet radiation (UVR) during a three-month experiment. The mice, without the benefit of UVR, would have been expected to gain weight rapidly, but when they were exposed to UVR, the weight gain was impressively reduced; the UVR treatment achieved 30-40% less weight gain, compared to the expected weight gain with the high-fat diet. The quantity of UVR exposure to the mice was proportionally equal to the quantity of sun exposure that a human would be exposed to by standing in the sun for ten minutes at noon.

So add sun exposure to the list of aids for obesity. Just be safe and do not burn. Let’s learn to live off the fat of the land but not be part of it!

[1] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx

[2] Gorman S, Lucas RM, Allen-Hall A1, Fleury N, Feelisch M. Ultraviolet radiation, vitamin D and the development of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2016 Dec 23. doi: 10.1039/c6pp00274a. [Epub ahead of print]

[3] Reid KJ, Santostasi G, Baron KG, Wilson J, Kang J, Zee PC. Timing and intensity of light correlate with body weight in adults. PLoS One 2014;2;9(4)

[4] Geldenhuys S, Hart PH, Endersby R, Jacoby P, Feelisch M, Weller RB, Matthews V, Gorman S. Ultraviolet radiation suppresses obesity and symptoms of metabolic syndrome independently of vitamin D in mice fed a high-fat diet. Diabetes. 2014 Nov;63(11):3759-69

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Sun Exposure reduces Obesity; Vitamin D does not.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute…

Sun exposure reduces the risk of obesity, and that relationship has been credited to vitamin D. However, one study, conducted on mice, shows that vitamin D may have nothing to do with reducing or preventing obesity.[1] The animals were placed on a high-fat diet to cause obesity. Then they were subjected to long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR), (which is the same sunlight spectrum that leads to the production of vitamin D and other photoproducts). The UVR significantly suppressed weight gain and other measures of the metabolic syndrome (MetS), including glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, fasting insulin levels, fatty liver disease and serum cholesterol levels.

Interestingly, when the animals were supplemented with vitamin D, no such benefits occurred, meaning that UVR created the positive protections independently. However when nitric oxide was applied to the skin of the animals, the positive effects on weight loss and metabolic syndrome were again observed. Nitric oxide, of course, is another photoproduct of sun exposure, which has many positive health effects.

Other research showed that early-morning sun exposure was correlated to lower body-mass index (BMI) which is a measure of body fatness.[2] The authors of that research suggested that the mechanisms involved in weight control by early light exposure 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 weight control. It may also be important to other health issues. But before we begin to think that sun exposure is the cure-all for obesity, realize that poor nutritional habits and lack of exercise are much more important. Nevertheless, sun exposure can furnish one more arrow in the quiver of protection from obesity.

Get your sun exposure and stay slim! Be careful not to burn.

[1] Geldenhuys S, Hart PH, Endersby R, Jacoby P, Feelisch M, Weller RB, Matthews V, Gorman S. Ultraviolet radiation suppresses obesity and symptoms of metabolic syndrome independently of vitamin D in mice fed a high-fat diet. Diabetes. 2014 Nov;63(11):3759-69.

[2] Reid KJ, Santostasi G, Baron KG, Wilson J, Kang J, Zee PC. Timing and intensity of light correlate with body weight in adults. PLoS One 2014;2;9(4)

 

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Sun Exposure, artificial Light and Weight Control

Sun Exposure, artificial light and weight control. Marc Sorenson, EdD… Sunlight Institute

Sun exposure gives life and has so many positive effects, including anticancer, anti-heart disease, and anti-osteoporosis. Unnatural light, however can do exactly the opposite. In the case of obesity, artificial light at night (ALAN) can lead to weight gain, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity.[1]

The hormone melatonin works in conjunction with serotonin during each daily physiological cycle, known as the circadian rhythm. Serotonin is a natural “upper” that awakens our senses and prepares us for our workday. Then, when the rhythms are properly synchronized, as evening comes, serotonin decreases and melatonin, a sleep inducer, takes over so that we can sleep soundly and awake refreshed as daylight and serotonin once more take over. However, a monkey wrench is often thrown into the works. It is called artificial light at night (ALAN), and it may be one of many factors that lead to obesity. ALAN inhibits melatonin production, a factor in both obesity and cancer.

The researchers looked at satellite images of 80 countries, assessed the amount of ALAN emitted from each country and then compared the rates of obesity in each. The data was adjusted to take into consideration the differing dietary patterns in each country, as well as the urban vs rural population and other factors that would influence obesity.

The results showed, that after all adjustments, ALAN emerged as a prominent predictor for obesity.

So how does this relate to sun exposure? One of my recent posts noted the results of research on early morning sun exposure and obesity, noting that early sun exposure inhibited obesity dramatically.[2] So not all light is good. Light at night is harmful; early morning sun exposure is wonderful. And if one wants to remain slim, it is imperative to eschew junk food, exercise and get plenty of non-burning sun exposure.

[1] Rybnikova NA, Haim A, Portnov BA. Does artificial light-at-night exposure contribute to the worldwide obesity pandemic? International Journal of Obesity. Int J Obes (Lond). 2016 May;40(5):815-23.

[2] Reid KJ, Santostasi G, Baron KG, Wilson J, Kang J, et al. Timing and Intensity of Light Correlate with Body Weight in Adults. PLoS ONE 2014 9(4): e92251. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092251

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Birth Season and Vitamin D Levels as Adults

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…

We all know that high sunlight exposure in adults leads to higher vitamin D levels. However, a most interesting piece of research also shows that your birth month has a considerable influence on vitamin D levels. In an Italian study, it was found that those who were born in winter, rather than spring and summer, were 11% more likely to develop vitamin D deficiency later in life.[i] This is an important finding, since many diseases are related in one way or another to season of birth. For example, a greater risk of obesity risk is observed in Canadians born in winter. Nevertheless, other factors such as inactivity are more important than season of birth.[ii]

This is another study that ties sunlight to vitamin D. But the question may still be asked: Is the relationship of birth seasonality to disease due to vitamin D or sunlight, or both? Whatever the answer, sunlight is the factor that makes vitamin D, so safely soak up the sun whenever you have the opportunity, and when it is too cold or overcast, safely use a sun lamp or tanning bed.

[i] Lippi G, Bonelli P, Buonocore R, Aloe R. Birth season and vitamin D concentration in adulthood. Ann Transl Med. 2015 Sep;3(16):231.

[ii] Wattie N1, Ardern CI, Baker J. Season of birth and prevalence of overweight and obesity in Canada. Early Hum Dev. 2008 Aug;84(8):539-47.

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Sleep Deprivation, Metabolic Syndrome and Sunlight

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

It is becoming increasingly obvious that lack of sleep is a major risk factor for human health. In a recent study reported in the journal Sleep Medicine,[i] 2579 adults without metabolic syndrome, were assessed for sleep habits for 2.6 years to determine their risk of developing metabolic syndrome, also known as Met S. Met S is a group of metabolic disorders (high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels and insulin resistance) that are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The participants were aged between 40 and 70 years.

Those who slept and average of less than 6 hours daily were 41% more likely to develop Met S than those who slept 6-7.9 hours. Among the measurements that were particularly concerning, were a 30% increased risk of high blood glucose and excess belly fat (both indications of future diabetes), and a 56% higher risk of high blood pressure. The researchers concluded that “Short sleep duration is an independent risk factor for incident metabolic syndrome in a population-based longitudinal study.”

Indeed, Lack of sleep can be deadly. Forbes Magazine online ran an excellent article on sunlight and sleep,[ii] in which they stated the following statistics: “In 2012, 60 Million Americans filled prescriptions for sleeping pills, up from 46 million in 2006.” The article discusses the potential dangers of sleep medications, showing that those who take 18 pills per year have a tripling of the risk of death compared to those who take fewer than that 18. It then describes the results of research showing that people whose workplaces have windows are able to sleep about 46 minutes per night more than those who have no natural light access.  Those who had more exposure to sunlight also were generally happier, had fewer ailments and experienced better vitality than their counterparts without windows.

Many individuals have difficulty sleeping long and soundly enough to feel refreshed. A study by Dr. Julie Gammack exposed test subjects to 30-60 minutes per day of direct sunlight, and according to the Saint Louis University health web site, “Nursing home patients who were exposed to natural light had improved sleep quality, less difficulty falling asleep, fewer episodes of wakefulness during the night and greater satisfaction with the amount of sleep they got.”[iii] Other research by Dr. Ayoub and colleagues in Alexandria, Egypt demonstrated that there were several factors associated with insomnia among the elderly. [iv] Having five or more diseases was associated with a 7.5 times increased risk, anxiety was associated with a 1.9 times increased risk, and depression with a 1.74 times increased risk. There was only one factor that reduced risk. Sunlight exposure was associated with 43% reduced risk. Likely, this was due to the production of serotonin and melatonin due to sunlight exposure (see the last paragraph. Other research has shown that sleep disturbances are more common in sub-arctic areas during the dark time of the year.[v] The message? If one wants to sleep well, sunlight exposure during the day is imperative.

This research on windows is particularly interesting because the effects of sunlight in that case could have had nothing to do with vitamin D, since the sunlight exposure came through windows, which block the UVB light that produces vitamin D. It is likely that the positive effects of sunlight in this case were produced by increasing serotonin levels (a natural mood enhancer) in the brain during the sunlight exposure, and then allowing melatonin (a natural relaxer) during the night.

Lack of sleep is a common, and perhaps deadly, malady. The sun is not our enemy, but a vital friend. Embrace it, but do not burn.

[i] Jang-Young Kim, Dhananjay Yadav, Song Vogue Ahn, , Sang-Baek Koh. A prospective study of total sleep duration and incident metabolic syndrome: the ARIRANG study. Sleep Medicine 2015;16:1511-1515.

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2013/06/18/to-get-more-sleep-get-more-sunlight/

[iii] Gammack, J. Quoted in Medical News Today, April 10, 2005.

[iv] Ayoub AI, Attia M, El Kady HM, Ashour A. Insomnia among community dwelling elderly in Alexandria, Egypt. J Egypt Public Health Assoc. 2014 Dec;89(3):136-42.

[v] Bratlid T, Wahlund B. Alterations in serum melatonin and sleep in individuals in a sub-arctic region from winter to spring. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2003 Sep;62(3):242-54.

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Anxious? Try a Little Sunlight.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

Are you suffering from anxiety disorder, but fear taking drugs?  Your fear is well-founded. It has been shown that a class of drugs called anti-anxiety drugs, i.e. valium and Xanax, and sleep aids like Ambien, Sonata and Lunesta lead to increased risk of death.[i] During 7.6 years, and after controlling for other factors such as sleep disorders, anxiety disorders and other psychiatric illnesses, it was found that the risk of dying was 3.46 times higher in those who took the drugs compared to those who did not. Considering the material we have posted on this site regarding brain disorders, insomnia, and sunlight, it seems reasonable to believe that a better and less dangerous anxiety-treatment option would be regular sunlight exposure.

Research from Denmark has shown that morning light, made to mimic daylight, relieves anxiety by reducing the activity of the brain’s fear center.[ii] The efficacy of the light treatment was based on the intensity of the light: the greater intensity, the greater the effect.

Another scientist, Dr Klaus Martiny, commented on the above study and noted that morning light improves sleep. “A lack of daylight disrupts some hormonal processes in our body that regulate our circadian rhythm. This can result in a shift in circadian rhythm, so that people go to sleep later and later in the evenings, and this shift is associated with an increased risk of depression.”[iii]

Martiny suggested that a good rule of thumb is to go to sleep before midnight and awaken before 8:00 AM. However, we discussed in the post on obesity that the earliest morning sunlight was associated with a remarkably lessened risk of obesity, which was also attributed to resetting the circadian rhythm. We therefore suggest that a better rule of thumb is to be outside for a half-hour when the sun rises each morning.

Get your morning sunlight, your midday sunlight and your afternoon sunlight. Sunlight is the great healer.

[i] Weich S, Pearce H, Croft P, Singh S, Crome L. et al. Effect of anxiolytic and hypnotic drug prescriptions on mortality hazards: retrospective cohort study. BMJ 2014;348:g1996.

[ii] Christensen B. Morning light relieves anxiety. Science Nordic 2014. http://sciencenordic.com/morning-light-relieves-anxiety Accessed August 8, 2015.

[iii] http://sciencenordic.com/morning-light-relieves-anxiety. Accessed August 8, 2015

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Sunlight is better than Vitamin D in Preventing Weight Gain.

Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

Those of you who follow this blog remember that one of my posts regarding weight control showed that early-morning sunlight was inversely correlated to body weight and Body Mass Index (BMI).[1] The earlier in the day the sunlight exposure occurred, the slimmer was the figure or physique.[2]

Another scientific paper was recently published that “sheds more light” on the subject of obesity. This research was conducted on mice that were placed on a high-fat diet and then exposed to non-burning ultraviolet radiation (UVR) during a three-month experiment.[3] The mice, without the benefit of UVR, would have been expected to gain weight rapidly, but when they were exposed to UVR, the weight gain was impressively reduced; the UVR treatment achieved 30-40% less weight gain, compared to the expected weight gain with the high-fat diet. The amount of UVR exposure to the mice was proportionally equal to the amount of UVR that a human would be exposed to by standing for ten minutes at noon.

Other benefits included significant reductions in glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and fasting insulin levels (all markers and predictors of diabetes), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease measures and cholesterol. All of these factors, including obesity, are part of a cluster of maladies known as the metabolic syndrome, or MetS, which is indicative of deteriorating health and susceptibility to heart disease, diabetes and death. 

Other interesting findings:

Supplementation with vitamin D actually reduced the aforementioned beneficial effects. Dr. Shelley Gorman, one of the authors, made two interesting observations regarding the research:

  1. “These findings were independent of circulating vitamin D and could not be mimicked by vitamin D supplementation.”[4]
  2. “It looked like the presence of vitamin D in mice on the high fat diet prevented the [beneficial] effect of UV radiation on weight gain.”
  3. She also mentioned that the mechanism or weight loss may be dependent on nitric oxide (NO), which originates from diet and can be mobilized by UV radiation to become bioactive.[5]

In another part of the experiment, skin induction of nitric oxide (NO)—also a product of skin exposure to sunlight—reproduced many of the positive effects of UVR, something that vitamin D could not do.

The authors concluded their research thusly: “These studies suggest that UVR (sunlight exposure) may be an effective means of suppressing the development of obesity and MetS, through mechanisms that are independent of vitamin D but dependent on other UVR-induced mediators such as NO.

Research continues to mount about the positive effects of sunlight that are independent of vitamin D. This should in no way be construed to diminish the vital importance of vitamin D; rather, it is to make a point that sunlight works in many ways, among which are stimulating the production vitamin D, stimulating the production of NO, stimulating the production of serotonin and stimulating the production of endorphins. Why should we be satisfied with any one of these marvelous health aids when sunlight is available? With sunlight exposure, we can have them all.

 

[1] http://sunlightinstitute.org/675/

[2] Reid KJ, Santostasi G, Baron KG, Wilson J, Kang J, Zee PC. Timing and intensity of light correlate with body weight in adults. PLoS One. 2014 Apr 2;9(4).

[3] Geldenhuys S, Hart PH, Endersby R, Jacoby P, Feelisch M, Weller RB, Matthews V, Gorman S. Ultraviolet radiation suppresses obesity and symptoms of metabolic syndrome independently of vitamin D in mice fed a high-fat diet. Diabetes. 2014 Nov;63(11):3759-69

[4] http://www.sciencewa.net.au/topics/health-a-medicine/item/3618-sun-shines-light-on-obesity-challenge

[5] See footnote 4.

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