It’s no secret that we all pack on a little extra beef over the winter, with the uninviting weather outside and festive overeating taking their toll. But try as you might, it just seems harder to shake the weight. Well, it might not be your fault, as scientists are now blaming the lack of sunlight for your troubles.
According to researchers from the University of Alberta, our fat cells sit close to the surface of the skin and when exposed to sunlight, they shrink. In the winter, not only is there less sun, but due to the cold weather, we’re also covered up more, thus missing out on whatever little sunlight there is.
How exactly did they find this out? Well, after putting some fat cells under UV lamps for four hours while keeping others in the dark every day for two weeks, the team noticed some interesting differences.
By the 11th day, the blue light-treated fat cells had fewer lipid droplets – the thing which stores fat – than the cells that didn’t get any light. This ultimately means that less light causes more fat storage.
The author of the study, Peter Light, explained “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.
“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.”
The professor of pharmacology and director of the Alberta Diabetes Institute goes so far as to suggest that this is a contributing factor in today’s obesity epidemic, especially in children who don’t spend enough time outside – less physical activity and less direct sunlight.
As if we needed another excuse to go on holiday, it seems that a few weeks in the sun will help to supercharge your weight loss, but Light adds a warning: “we don’t yet know the intensity and duration of light necessary for this pathway to be activated.”
So, make sure you continue to cream up and always be responsible under the sun, especially with young children.