As the incidence of obesity rises in the U.S. and around the world, weight loss has become a hot topic. Though the debate often focuses on exercise, food and eating habits, a study by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has revealed that exposure to bright natural morning light can influence your weight.
This is the first time such revelations have been made public. Researchers believe that people who are exposed to natural morning light have a relatively lower body mass index (or BMI) compared to those who aren’t exposed to such light, or those who are exposed to natural light later in the day. (BMI is a ratio derived from your weight and height.)
Details of the Study
To conclusively prove this theory, researchers at Northwestern Medicine recruited 54 adults (26 males and 28 females) with an average age of 30 years. For the test, each was asked to wear a wrist monitor that tracked their sleep patterns and exposure to light for seven days.
The participants also recorded what they ate in daily logs to track their caloric intake. The results of the study showed that participants who were exposed to morning light had a lower BMI compared to those who didn’t. According to Kathryn Reid, the author of the study and an associate professor at Northwestern University School of medicine, their BMI was also lower even when the participants’ activity levels and caloric intake were factored in.
What Does This Mean?
The results of this study could have important implications for people’s daily routines. Phyllis C. Zee, M.D, a senior author of the study, says that most Americans today do not get enough exposure to natural morning light, especially because the modern lifestyle of most people typically takes place indoors.
Additionally, Dr. Zee confirmed that most people work and live in poorly lit environments normally between 200 – 300 lux. (To put this into context, a normal clouded day provides roughly 1,000 lux of brightness.) As such, a lack of outdoor activity could significantly limit the opportunities for Americans to enjoy the benefits of light-related weight loss.
Light as the Next Weight Loss Frontier
The next big question is whether light can provide the necessary impetus for healthy and effective weight loss. Doctor Reid says that, based on the results and insights presented in the study, light could potentially be used in weight-management programs.
The study notes that exposure to natural light at 8 AM and at noon for about 30 minutes could do the trick. Researchers believe that light is a key factor in the synchronization of a person’s internal body clock, which is necessary to ensure that the body and bodily functions continue optimally.
Dr. Zee agrees that people should be encouraged to get enough exposure to natural light as a healthy lifestyle choice. Homes, offices and other commercial places should be well lit with natural light and have enough windows. Employees, workers and even kids should take breaks and go for a stroll during lunch once in a while.
Additionally, offices should invest on effective indoor lighting solutions to help avert issues of obesity in the future.