Sunlight link to obesity and diabetes

Friday, October 24, 2014

Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute and Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research have found that small regular doses of sunlight suppress the development of obesity.  The findings have been published in the journal Diabetes.

Leading this project, Telethon Kids researcher Dr Shelley Gorman said the team found that regular exposure of the skin to moderate amounts of ultraviolet radiation suppressed the development of obesity and the metabolic syndrome.

"We have shown that skin exposure to both high dose (around 10 minutes in midday summer sun) and low dose (around 2-3 minutes in midday summer sun) ultraviolet radiation suppresses the development of obesity and diabetes symptoms in mice fed a high fat diet," Dr Gorman said.  

"We didn't observe the same effect in mice fed a diet that included vitamin D supplements so the mechanism seems to be due to other factors induced by sunlight not vitamin D."

Dr Gorman said the findings are important as they suggest that casual exposure of the skin to sunlight, together with plenty of exercise and a healthy diet, may help prevent the development of obesity in children.

She said further research was needed to better understand this effect and how we can better harness the sun to improve our metabolic health.

However, Dr Gorman said it was important that anyone concerned about the health benefits of exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight consult current guidelines on safe levels of exposure.

Co-author Professor Prue Hart from Telethon Kids said that whilst this research has significance around the globe it is particularly important in Australia. "Given our climate and our lifestyle our research is very relevant to the future health and wellbeing of our kids and we look forward to expanding on it."

Obesity has significant effects on our health and wellbeing: obese people have increased comorbidities resulting from cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, breast and colon cancers, dementia and depression.

 

Last updated: Wednesday, August 5, 2015

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