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article imageLight at night can make you fat- and diabetic

By Paul Wallis     Oct 12, 2010 in Health
Nobody expected this discovery by Ohio State University. Light at night apparently upsets the metabolism. Experiments with mice have shown a 50 per cent mass gain in environments exposed to even mild night light sources.
There’s a reason for this apparently unkind trick of the light. Normal metabolism requires sleep, and light disturbs sleep. Eating at times when they’d normally be sleeping was one of the problems for the obese mice.
The standard light and dark cycle of 16 hours light and 8 dark is the normal diurnal rhythm. Anyone who’s ever had disturbed sleep will remember vividly that feeling of disorientation afterwards.
Arguably the most disturbing thing about the study was that the mice exposed to light at night also showed levels of glucose intolerance- the precursor of diabetes. This was despite the fact that these mice were otherwise the same as the controls, and equally active.
This is one of those fundamental bits of science which often goes past unnoticed outside the field of study. It’s hugely significant. The gigantic diabetes epidemic sweeping the world has occurred at a time when huge areas of the world are brightly lit all the time.
Artificial light itself is a comparatively new thing in human history, and many adults have night lights. Like the Stone Age metabolism, it’s more than likely that humans haven’t yet adapted to the effects of light. In prehistoric times, light at night meant danger. Storms, fires and enemies were the main causes of light. Animals react to light at night often by avoiding it. Many are dazzled because their eyes are literally overloaded by things like car headlights.
The trouble is that mice and humans share a lot of common physical characteristics. Studies on humans are the next step, and if previous tests are anything to go by the common thread may well be reiterated. Humans do suffer when deprived of sleep, and it’s actually a form of torture. The obvious neurological effects are stress, and even weight loss. This is far more subtle.
The disruption of metabolism by different sleep patterns is well known, but if some other factor is actually impeding proper metabolism it’d explain a lot about why so many people are suffering from obesity and diabetes. It may be that the body is stressed neurologically to the extent that normal metabolism is seriously disrupted. Keep an eye on this subject, because you’ll definitely be hearing more about it.
More about Obesity, Sleep metabolic disorders, Ohio state university
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