A new study suggests that exposure to UV light radiated from the sun might help prevent obesity and diabetes. UV triggers the skin to release a compound called nitric oxide which regulates the metabolism of the body. Mice exposed to UV were observed to produce this substance and had reduced weight gains together with fewer signs of diabetes onset. So, is the sun the new weight-loss machine?! Let’s find out.
One of the general laws in nature is that everything good has to be consumed within a certain proportion: a balance has to be struck in order to gain the maximum benefits, while going to extremes might lead to being harmed by “too much” of the good thing: the same goes for food, the same goes for mostly every other resource, including sunshine!
Sunlight is paramount to our very existence: it is the main source of energy that drives life on Earth. We also need it for its power to trigger the synthesis of vitamin D as it strikes our skin. Deficiency in vitamin D is also cause for worry; exposure to the sun is thus desired in this respect. However, ultraviolet (UV) light radiating from the sun is also harmful to us: UV is, in fact, a leading cause of skin cancer. Is exposure to sun more harmful than it is desired? Scientists have argued that moderate exposure is what we should ideally aim for.
A new study has unveiled more on the positive effects of sun exposure. Researchers have shown how UV exposure might be affecting obesity and diabetes – a pretty unusual combination.
The experiment involved feeding mice with high-fat foods to stimulate the onset of obesity and diabetes. When these mice were exposed to UV, reduced weight gain was observed, while, at the same time, they displayed fewer signs of diabetes onset. The compound that was associated with these changes was nitric oxide which was released by the skin after being exposed to the sun. The team confirmed the influence of nitric oxide by applying a cream containing the chemical to the skin of mice which thereafter had the same counter obesity and diabetes impacts.
Past studies had suggested that nitric oxide produced from UV exposure might decrease blood pressure. Now, the compound has been shown to have other beneficial effects. One of the authors therefore stated that: “These observations further indicate that the amounts of nitric oxide released from the skin may have beneficial effects, not only on heart and blood vessels, but also on the way our body regulates metabolism.”
Moderate exposure to sunlight might therefore help to prevent obesity, as concluded by the researchers.
“We know from epidemiology studies that sun-seekers live longer than those who spend their lives in the shade. Studies such as this one are helping us to understand how the sun can be good for us. We need to remember that skin cancer is not the only disease that can kill us and should perhaps balance our advice on sun exposure.”
But, can these results be extrapolated to human beings? Let’s not forget that mice are nocturnal creatures, covered in fur, as opposed to us, ‘fur-less’ humans. The authors have therefore taken this information into consideration and have cautioned against reckless interpretations of their results. More studies are needed to dig deeper into the effect of UV on obesity and diabetes in humans.