Wanna keep the pounds off? Go out in the sunshine, scientists have claimed. Researchers state moderate exposure to UV rays allow release of a key chemical which slows the progress of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Nitric oxide, released by the skin with exposure to sunlight, is a key factor in the metabolism, they discovered. Researchers at Edinburgh and Southampton Universities, who made the discoveries trialed on mice – and called for new health advice about the way we treat exposure to sunshine.

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Dr Richard Weller, senior lecturer in dermatology at the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘Such kinds of studies are helping us discern how the sun can be good for us.’ ‘We must remember that skin cancer is not the solo disease that can turn fatal – and should perhaps balance our advice on sun exposure.’

The research team working in collaboration with scientists at the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, Western Australia, discovered that overfed mice exposed to UV light slowed their weight gain. The mice showed fewer of the warning signs related to type 2 diabetes, like abnormal glucose levels and resistance to insulin.

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The good effects of UV treatment are connected to a nitric oxide, which skin releases with exposure to sun-light. The substance has a role to play with regard to the way we digest and process food and sugar, possibly averting harmful metabolic conditions such as diabetes. The scientists work, published in the journal Diabetes, alert that since their findings are in mice, they might not exactly translate into humans. Further studies are called for to confirm whether sunshine exposure produces similar kind of effect on weight gain and risk of diabetes in people, they add – particularly since mice are nocturnal animals covered in fur and not normally exposed to intense levels of sunlight.
Nevertheless, studies done earlier on in humans have revealed that nitric oxide can reduce blood pressure, and the recent research adds to a body of evidence that backs the health rewards of moderate exposure to the sun’s rays.

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Professor Martin Feelisch, at the University of Southampton, opines: ‘These studies further shows that the amounts of nitric oxide released from the skin possibly have rewarding effects on heart and blood vessels as well as on the way our body regulates metabolism.’ Dr Shelley Gorman, of the Telethon Kids Institute in Australia, opines: ”Our discoveries are crucial as they indicate that casual skin exposure to sunlight, along with lots of exercise and a healthy diet, perhaps help prevent the development of obesity in children.’