Researchers from Southampton, Edinburgh and Australia have found that exposure to the sun can help fight obesity and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes, according to a study done on mice.
The researchers, who published the research in the journal Diabetes, found that when they shined ultraviolet light on mice that were overfed, the animals ate less food. Vitamin D, which is produced when the body is exposed to sunlight, appeared to have no role in the results, according to the study.
Experts said that more research would be required to determine if exposure to sunshine, and the ultraviolet light it contains, will have the same effect on humans.
The research team added that the results of the study should be cautiously interpreted; as mice, which are the subjects of the research, are nocturnal animals that are fur-covered and do not usually expose themselves to sunlight.
The mice, after being exposed to ultraviolet light, also showed fewer warning signs of the development of type 2 diabetes, which includes resistance to insulin and abnormal levels of glucose.
The benefits of the exposure to ultraviolet light were connected to nitric oxide, which is a compound released by the skin after it is exposed to the sun.
When the researchers applied a cream that contained nitric oxide on the skin of the mice, the same effect was obtained.
"We know from epidemiology studies that sun-seekers live longer than those who spend their lives in the shade. Studies such as this one are helping us to understand how the sun can be good for us," said University of Edinburg dermatology senior lecturer Richard Weller.
Weller also says it should be remembered that skin cancer, which can be obtained from constant and heavy exposure to sunlight, is not the only disease that people should be avoiding. He added that balance should be struck between avoiding skin cancer and exposing the human body to sunlight.
Shelley Gorman, from the Telethon Kids Institute in Australia and the lead author of the study, said that being exposed to the sun is an important component of a healthy lifestyle.
However, Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health nutrition committee chairman Colin Michie pointed out that it was already known that ultraviolet light has significant effects on several processes in the human body. However, he said that the study still held considerable value because it poses several important questions on whether ultraviolet light can be applied to prevent conditions such as obesity and diabetes on both children and adults.