The Connection Between Lack Of Sunlight And Belly Fat

Daily exposure to sunlight is essential for a healthy mind and body. During the summer, you've likely spent hours outside hiking new trails, vacationing, exercising outdoors, and celebrating with good ole' bbqs. Then winter hits, and somehow those healthy habits start to plummet as cold weather, baked goods, and hearty meals make their way to the dinner table. That being said, have you ever noticed it's easier to lose weight during summer than winter? If you're nodding yes, it turns out sunlight could play a major role in fat loss, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

In particular, hot weather leads to slower digestion (per AccuWeather). This in return equates to our tummies feeling full longer. Besides, there's also more opportunities to burn belly fat and support weight loss goals. Think seasonal fruits (i.e. berries, watermelon), fresh green salads, and summer sports.

In contrast, the absence of sunlight may lead to weight gain. Peter Light, an author of the aforementioned study, comments to Medical News Today, "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."

How does sunlight burn belly fat?

It's common knowledge that nutrition and exercise are keys to getting rid of unwanted belly fat, but research shows sunlight can also help. Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reports that ultraviolet radiation (aka sunlight) has the ability to reduce weight gain and the development of cardiometabolic dysfunction in mice. But how does it burn fat in humans?

According to the 2017 study published in Scientific Reports, exposure to sunlight influences subcutaneous white adipose tissue (scWAT) function in humans. These white fat cells are found beneath the skin (called subcutaneous fat) or around the belly (known as visceral fat), points out The Conversation. Their main role is to store and release triglycerides. But, when too much is stored, this may lead to obesity, diabetes, and other cardiometabolic disorders, explains Medical News Today.

What the researchers found is that blue light from the sun (aka the light you can see) can shrink lipid droplet size and regulate scWAT function (via Scientific Reports). "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, lipid droplets reduce in size and are released out of the cell. In other words, our cells don't store as much fat," says Light to Medical News Today. All this being said, if you're considering adding more sunlight to you health regimen, don't forget to add sun protective gear (i.e. sunscreen, hat, etc.).