How Bright Light Influences Your Metabolism


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There are several factors that contribute to burning more calories and moving the needle on the scale: regular exercise, quality sleep, drinking plenty of water and eating a well-balanced diet, all can boost metabolism.

Avoid bright light in the evening due to the effects it has on the circadian rhythm

Researchers at Northwestern University found bright light was associated with higher blood sugar and increased insulin resistance, which are risks for weight gain after comparing the impact of three hours of morning versus evening exposure to bright and dim lighting on hunger and metabolism. In addition, they found out that evening exposure to light had the greatest impact on blood glucose levels. Kathryn Reid, PhD, a research professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine explains: “We typically recommend avoiding bright light in the evening due to the effects it has on the circadian rhythm,” “More research is needed because the impact of light exposure later in the evening on metabolism might be a different mechanism.”

33% higher rates of obesity among those who were exposed to artificial light

People who had most of their exposure to bright light in the morning had significantly lower BMIs than those who had most of their exposure to bright light in the evenings according to an earlier study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Rates of obesity were 33% higher among those who were exposed to artificial light (from sources like incandescent light bulbs or television screens) than those who slept in the dark. Nighttime exposure to light alters the circadian rhythm, triggering changes in hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism.“It’s also possible that [being exposed to] light at night simply disrupts sleep,” says Moon. “There is increasing evidence that not getting enough sleep is associated with weight gain.”

The lack of sunlight impact on our health

The lack of sunlight during the winter months could also impact the number on the scale, so it’s not just exposure to light at certain times of day that appears to affect metabolism.  fat cells tend to shrink when exposed to sunlight as was found by the research published in Scientific Reports. In contrast, the lack of sunlight during winter appears to slow metabolism and promote fat storage, which could be one of the reasons for winter weight gain.

In conclusion

You won’t avoid gaining weight by descending into darkness or living in a warm-weather climate. “Light exposure during the day has many positive effects on health, mood, sleep and well-being, and has acute effects on alertness levels. My advice would be to maximize bright light exposure during the daytime and avoid bright light at night, particularly in the hours prior to bedtime and during sleep.” affirms Red. In order to get more daytime light and enough vitamin D, you should start your day by going on a walk, even though it is winter and you don’t feel like getting out of the bed. A daily walk will change your mood and help you lose weight.

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