Many of us feel a little puffier in the Winter, but as it turns out, there's some unexpected science behind it. Winter weight gain might not just come from those extra Christmas cookies — it could be due to a lack of sunshine! Our bodies really do miss that Summer sun; a study came out today and showed that a little bit of sunshine is not only good for some vitamin D and a happy mood, but it may reduce fat and regulate metabolism as well.
The Jan. 10 study from the University of Alberta concluded that "lack of sufficient bodily exposure to sunlight" (read: not getting enough rays) "may contribute to long-term scWAT [subcutaneous white adipose tissue] dysfunction and the current epidemics of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease."
If you just stopped and said, "Whoa, wait . . . wtf is subcutaneous white adipose tissue?" — it's fat. But not just any fat! "[scWAT] is the major fat depot in humans and is a central player in regulating whole body metabolism," the study said. And this particular type of fat — the one that needs the sun's light — plays a vital role in your metabolism. Gives a whole new meaning to "Summer body," doesn't it?
"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 [the skin's surface], lipid droplets reduce in size and are released out of the cell. In other words, our cells don't store as much fat," Peter Light, senior author of the study and professor of pharmacology and the director of UAlberta's Alberta Diabetes Institute told ScienceDaily. "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."
Yet another reason to get outside for extra daylight, yes? Just remember to use that SPF and take care of your skin, too. Peter Light warned that "this finding is only an initial observation and that pursuing exposure to sunlight is not a safe or recommended way to lose weight," according to ScienceDaily. But while studies continue to be conducted and this topic is further explored, maybe try one of those sun-simulating indoor lights.