No matter how hard you try to stick to your exercise routine or resist those Christmas cookies, you eventually realize that it is practically impossible to avoid weight gain in winter, and by the time it starts getting warmer, none of your pants fit any more. So, what is it about the cold, gloomy days of winter that prevent us from losing weight?
Hint: It has something to do with the sun…
Sunlight doesn’t just burn skin… it also burns fat
Canadians often have to put up with tough winters which makes it hard to get out of the house sometimes, let alone go for a run. But is the lack of activity the only culprit behind weight gain in winter?
In order to uncover the mysterious phenomenon behind the term ‘winter fluff’, researchers from a Canadian university conducted a study which became a breakthrough in discovering a hidden factor in our fat-burning mechanism that hasn’t been explored by scientists before. This recent study found out that a special wavelength from the visible part of the sunlight played a significant role in shrinking fat cells in our body.
Blue light causes shrinkage of fat-storing molecules
The researchers used an in-lab method to test this theory by taking actual fat cells from a living being and leaving it under artificial blue light from lamps. The blue light was used to imitate the shortest wavelength from the visible sunlight, which is crucial for weight loss. The cells were kept under the light for four hours before being left in the dark for the remainder of the day. The process was repeated for four weeks before observing the cells to find any difference.
On the eleventh day, researchers made a surprising discovery when he saw that the fat cells which had been exposed to the blue light has fewer lipid molecules in comparison to the cells which had completely been left in the dark. These lipid molecules can also be described as organelles which store fat inside the cells. What was even more surprising was that the remaining lipid molecules inside the cells which had been treated with light, had shrunk in size and didn’t store as much fat as the other cells in the untreated group.
An Accidental Study
The author of the study, Peter Light, says that its remarkable to know how blue light from the sun can affect the fat-storing potential of lipid molecules inside our cells. What he and his team also found was that the lack of light had the opposite effect on the fat cells and the lipid molecules inside them grew in size and number, increasing the amount of fat stored inside them. This could explain why most people experience weight-gain in the cold months of winter.
Like most other discoveries made in science, this phenomenon was also uncovered by accident while the researchers were working on a completely different study. Peter and his team were originally experimenting with different wavelengths of light in order to see if it could be used to trigger the fat cells in our body to produce insulin, but they stumbled upon an interesting discovery which had never been discussed in literature before.
Peter compared this strange mechanism to the way our circadian rhythm is affected by blue light, but in order to create a concrete conclusion, he decided to look more carefully at how the adipose tissues are affected by certain wavelengths inside the spectrum of visible light.
So what is the theory behind the shrinkage of fat cells when exposed to sunlight? Some scientists say that just like blue light signals our body when to wake up and go to sleep, it might also control our cells’ fat storing process, which is why our bodies become programmed to store more fat in the absence of sunlight.
Despite the findings of this breakthrough study, it hasn’t been made clear how long one should be exposed to the sunlight or what intensity the light should be in order to activate the fat-shrinking mechanism. Which means that laying out in the sun for an extended period of time isn’t recommended at all.