Hello Viva Friends. This week’s LightEdu topic is quite popular in wellness circles so we thought it was about time to sprinkle some of our ✨ magic into the discussion. The magic that will teach you how to tap into your innate superpower to maintain the healthy weight you’re longing for, with Light nutrition.
You will learn how light, both - artificial and natural, influences your hormones, what are the exact pathways to this connection and the seven action steps for a slimmer waistline.
Important! The preamble to regulate your weight is to first improve your health. Weight correction comes as a consequence. Okay. Now that the order of things is clear, step in.
Entrance to the better health outcome and slimmer waistline
You sure know someone who has challenges related to their body weight, whether the struggle lies in gaining muscle or shedding excess pounds. In both scenarios, the conventional advice revolves around modifying dietary habits and increasing physical activity. And the prevailing narrative boils down to managing calorie intake and expenditure. But the reality is far from being so simple. And a large portion of the population has pursued this methodology, only to meet with disappointment and frustration.
What do you think underlies this mismatch?
🔮Come closer… Human biology has many intricacies. And the interplay within human biological systems is not solely led by nutritional choices and level of physical activity. It's influenced by a myriad of environmental factors. Besides your dietary preferences and exercise routines these include your thoughts, relationships, and even the quality of light you are exposed to. You’re facing a variety of challenges in the pursuit of optimal health and body composition.
The fascinating interplay between light, circadian rhythm and hormones on body weight
By the end of the reading you’ll get answers to these:
How does light affect weight?
Can lack of sunlight cause weight gain?
Can lack of darkness cause weight gain?
Is light during sleep connected to obesity?
How does morning light influence body weight?
The simple solutions available to everyone (7 action steps!)
How does light affect weight
When you hear light, you naturally think only about the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that you see. This specific range is referred to as the visible spectrum of light, which is responsible for the spectrum of "colors" that you perceive. However, the human eye is only capable of registering a small portion of the entire spectrum of light. The segments of light that escape your perception, referred to as invisible light, have equal, if not more, significance than what you can visibly recognize for your health. This includes ultraviolet (UV) and infrared light, both of which make distinct influences on your physical and mental well-being.
Throughout evolution, humans have predominantly thrived with a singular light source: the sun. The solar spectrum encompasses the entirety of light frequencies, and with the Earth's movements, the spectrum reaching us undergoes constant shifts throughout the day and night. That’s why it’s called CIRCADIAN. This dynamic and comprehensive spectrum of light makes the environment humans are designed to inhabit. Our biological systems adapted to this intricate interplay of light and darkness. And every part of your cellular activity follows this rhythmic pattern. Each metabolic process within your body, which includes weight loss or weight gain, activates or deactivates in harmony with this cycle, a phenomenon known as the circadian rhythm. This internal rhythm, driven by the presence or absence of light, orchestrates a 24-hour cadence within your body.
Natural light is a crucial external cue that helps regulate your circadian rhythm. When your eyes perceive light, a signal is sent to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain, which acts as the body's master clock. This triggers the release of hormones that influence your behavior, alertness, and even metabolism.
“Natural light is a crucial external cue that helps regulate our circadian rhythm. When our eyes perceive light, a signal is sent to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain, which acts as the body's master clock.“
Can lack of sunlight cause weight gain
It might seem odd, but the answer is a big YES!
Were you aware that merely one-third of the energy your cells generate is derived from your dietary intake? It's an intriguing revelation, isn't it? So, where does the remaining two-thirds of this energy originate? Light? You bet!
The part of your cells responsible for the creation of energy is called the mitochondria. These are tiny power plants that transform electrons and protons entering your body into ATP, the storage form of energy in your body.
These protons and electrons can come from different sources like nutrition, grounding, or the light touching your body. When sunlight graces your body, your mitochondria optimize their efficiency, yielding an elevated output of energy without the need for dietary input. Essentially, this means that you can achieve comparable energy levels with reduced food consumption. In contrast, limited exposure to sunlight compels your mitochondria to demand increased sustenance to fuel energy production. Consequently, this prompts a heightened intake of calories in order to sustain energy equilibrium.
“When sunlight graces your body, your mitochondria optimize their efficiency, yielding an elevated output of energy without the need for dietary input.”
The next, a rather complex hormonal part is coming, zoom in Viva friends:
UV light is an important part of the solar spectrum that is absent from our artificial lights. When you go outdoors, the sun's UV light engages with your skin and eyes, igniting essential biochemical reactions. Among these pivotal reactions is the generation of POMC, a substantial precursor molecule that ultimately metamorphoses into alpha-MSH, dopamine and thyroid hormones. The former, alpha-MSH, exerts influence over the regulation of inflammation, immune responses, reproductive functions, and energy homeostasis – the mechanism responsible for balancing calorie expenditure and storage. Meanwhile, dopamine is responsible for your concentration, drive, and ability to counteract cravings and addictive tendencies. Lastly, thyroid hormones are what regulate your metabolism, acting like a thermostat for your body. The more thyroid hormones you produce, the more you’ll burn calories.
Insufficient exposure to sunlight demands an increased dietary intake to achieve equivalent energy levels. Furthermore, it jeopardizes the maintenance of adequate alpha-MSH, dopamine and thyroid hormone levels, culminating in inflammation, cravings, and ultimately, undesirable weight gain.
Now, let’s shift to 🌚
Can lack of darkness cause weight gain
In Nature, both light and dark are present at specific times. As we’ve seen above, human bodies are attuned to these changes and react accordingly. When you lack natural light during the day, you must bear the consequences. The same is true when you are not exposed to darkness after sunset.
The artificial lights in our environment like LEDs and screens emit a constant and incomplete spectrum of light. They lack infrared and UV light, are low in red/orange and are very rich in blue light. They have a high color temperature equivalent to the sun at noon. This signal tells your brain that it’s midday, when you are supposed to be active. This completely disrupts your circadian rhythm and cells become dysfunctional.
For those still unsure about the harmful effect of artificial light, a recent study suggested adding a health warning on LED packaging just like the one on cigarettes!
Let’s now meet the major hormone in the circadian process, Mr.
A main victim of this disruption is the leptin hormone, a pivotal regulator of your energy equilibrium. Leptin's choreography involves inciting hunger when energy levels decline and suppressing it when energy abounds. It is adept at slowing metabolism in the face of weight loss and heightening it when excess weight accrues, thereby fostering a return to stability.
Unfortunately, artificial light, particularly at night, impedes your ability to “listen” to leptin signals. Stored within subcutaneous fat, leptin travels to the brain during sleep, in darkness. It is responsible for a whole update regarding the energy reserves within the body, enabling the brain to determine whether there is a need for additional sustenance for survival. When artificial light disrupts this process, you face leptin resistance. Consequently, the brain loses its capacity to determine energy levels, stepping into a survival mechanism. This, in turn, prompts heightened consumption and retention of calories. It’s equal to having a broken fuel meter in your car. If you can’t tell the amount of fuel in your tank, you’ll put fuel in your car every time you have to go somewhere and ease up on the gas pedal to preserve your fuel reserve. This is exactly what happens in your body when you become leptin resistant.
“Leptin's choreography involves inciting hunger when energy levels decline and suppressing it when energy abounds.”
Another common consequence of leptin resistance is late-night eating. Those who are exposed to artificial light during nighttime hours or engage in irregular sleep patterns are more likely to consume high-calorie, unhealthy snacks later in the evening. This is because the hormonal imbalance caused by their circadian disruption can lead to stronger cravings and a reduced feeling of satiety.
Is light during sleep connected to obesity
“The production of melatonin and growth hormone are negatively affected by the presence of artificial light after sunset. More than 80% of your melatonin production can be suppressed by an LED bulb at night.”
Sleeping with artificial lights on has a direct effect on weight gain. As we've talked before, when the sun sets, natural environments lack blue light, which prompts the release of melatonin – a hormone with multiple roles. While melatonin is commonly associated with inducing sleep, its functions go beyond that. This hormone has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties. Moreover, melatonin plays a crucial role in eliminating aged and deteriorating cells, replacing them with fresh, healthy ones. Given that inflammation contributes to weight gain and obesity, optimizing melatonin levels facilitates weight loss by reducing inflammation and enhancing the depth and quality of sleep. If you want to learn more about melatonin, check out our article “Everything you need to know about melatonin & how to naturally boost your melatonin levels”.
The deeper your sleep is, the more growth hormone you secrete. Growth hormone is responsible for keeping your cells young and repairing damaged tissues. It is also the most potent fat-burning hormone your body possesses. The darker your environment is at night and during your sleep, the more growth hormone you’ll secrete and the easier it will be to maintain an optimal body composition.
Both the production of melatonin and growth hormone are negatively affected by the presence of artificial light after sunset. As you can see below, more than 80% of your melatonin production can be suppressed by an LED bulb at night.
Even small amounts of artificial light from an alarm clock or the power button of a television can negatively impact your sleep and hormone levels.
“Growth hormone is responsible for keeping your cells young and repairing damaged tissues. The darker your environment is at night and during your sleep, the more growth hormone you’ll secrete and the easier it will be to maintain an optimal body composition.“
Artificial light also increases your blood glucose and insulin levels, which are both tied to inflammation, weight gain and chronic disease. Insulin triggers lipogenesis, the pathway your body uses to store fat. The higher your insulin levels are, the more you’ll transform the food you eat into fat instead of burning it for energy.
While this might sound overwhelming, there are lifestyle changes you’re in charge of to maintain your healthy weight. Let’s discover them.
How does morning light influence body weight
The early morning sunrise presents a specific light spectrum that includes infrared, red, and blue light. This unique blend serves as a precise signal for your body to awaken and initiate the activation of neurotransmitters and hormonal processes. Basking in the morning sunlight elevates your dopamine and serotonin production, promoting productivity and happiness. Moreover, it gives a boost to your sex and thyroid hormones, ensuring a dynamic and flourishing day ahead.
Within the sun's radiant energy, the infrared light has a profound impact on your well-being by catalyzing the production of pregnenolone within your mitochondria. Pregnenolone plays a pivotal role as the precursor to all sex steroid hormones. Its production prompts a pivotal decision within your body: it can either generate cortisol in response to stress or foster the creation of DHEA and sex hormones in a nurturing environment. While cortisol serves as an acute anti-inflammatory response, chronically elevated levels can lead to a spectrum of adverse symptoms.
“Basking in the morning sunlight elevates your dopamine and serotonin production, promoting productivity and happiness. It gives a boost to your sex and thyroid hormones, ensuring a dynamic and flourishing day ahead.“
This choice-making process is crucial. If constant stress, stemming from negative emotions, toxic relationships, or exposure to artificial light, becomes a prevailing factor, your body will prioritize cortisol production to cope with stressors, at the expense of sex hormones. These sex hormones – testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone – play a vital role in maintaining body composition, ensuring a healthy proportion of lean muscle mass and optimal levels of body fat.
The simple solutions available to everyone: 7 action steps to slimmer waistline
Now that we’ve explained the impact of light on your weight, let’s take a look at the practical solutions you can use in everyday life to nurture your body and use the power of healthy light to improve your body composition and optimize your hormone levels.
1. Go outside as early as possible: To activate your hormonal cascade and make sure you have plenty of energy available for the day ahead, start your day by going outside as soon as you wake up. No matter if it’s raining, cloudy, or a perfect blue sky, you still get benefits from being outside. The hormonal cascade it will create will boost your metabolism and make weight loss much easier.2. Prioritize Natural Light Exposure: Every time you can, go outside during the day. If you can’t because of work or other obligations, make sure to open a window to let the natural light in. Even a small crack makes a difference. The changing spectrum of sunlight in your environment will help to synchronize your circadian rhythm making every function in your body flow more smoothly
3. Expose as much skin as possible to sunlight: Light as a local impact where your skin is exposed. For example, exposing your abdomen to sunlight will increase the diversity and health of your microbiome leading to better digestion, improved energy levels and a better metabolism! It’s more efficient than probiotics and it’s FREE! If you don’t know how to safely expose yourself to sunlight, check out our blog post “How to Safely Increase Sun Exposure and Build Your Solar Callus this Spring”.
4. Dim the Lights in the Evening: Minimize exposure to artificial light in the evening to signal your body that it's time to wind down. Both the spectrum of light and the intensity of the light you are exposed to matter. The brighter the light in your environment is, even if it’s a simple red light, the more melatonin suppression it creates. So make sure to dim the light as much as you can.
5. Wear VivaRays Circadian Harmonizing Glasses: Our glasses are the perfect way to ensure that you are no longer exposed to the wrong frequencies of light during the day and night.
During the day, when you are exposed to artificial light, wear our yellow lenses to block the harmful peak of blue light that triggers the release of cortisol and elevates blood glucose and insulin levels, resulting in inflammation and weight gain.
After sunset, switch to our orange lenses. They block 100% of blue light while allowing just enough green light to stay awake & productive for your evening tasks or to socialize.
End your day with our red lenses 1-2 hours before going to bed to maximize your melatonin levels and ensure the deepest & most rejuvenating sleep possible.
6. Develop a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps to maintain a stable circadian rhythm which facilitates weight loss and optimal hormonal levels.
“Exposing your abdomen to sunlight will increase the diversity and health of your microbiome leading to better digestion, improved energy levels and a better metabolism! It’s more efficient than probiotics and it’s free.”
7. Avoid Late-Night Snacking: Try to finish your last meal before sunset or at least three to four hours before bedtime to allow your body to digest properly. Eating too close to bedtime decreases your sensitivity to leptin and disrupts your sleep, both of which leads to weight gain and hormonal imbalances.
Understanding the profound connection between light, circadian rhythm, hormones, and weight gain empowers you to make lifestyle changes that support a healthy weight management. By prioritizing natural light exposure during the day and avoiding artificial light at night, you’ll create a more harmonious balance within your body, enhancing overall well-being and health. Light nutrition is real. So, let's embrace the rhythm of Nature and use it as a powerful ally in your quest for a healthier and happier life. ☀️