Enlightening Findings: Causes of Rising Obesity Rate in America

Big shocker: There is a growing obesity rate in America. And it’s starting in childhood. Some factors are obvious, some not so. This one came as a surprise to me.

The list of things that have been shown to contribute to obesity is quite long and seems to be growing every day.  As mentioned,  some are very obvious, like too many calories, too many refined carbs, skipping breakfast, chemical exposures like BPA in plastic water bottles and not enough exercise.  Others, like having the right blend of bacteria in your gut, are less obvious, but still play a potentially large role.

This particular article highlights a new factor in the rising tide of obesity.  Light at night.

Yep.  Something as simple as too much light at night may have a very large impact on both your weight and your cholesterol levels.  This goes doubly for night shift workers.  Who would have thought?

Researchers measured the amount of light in the bedroom of 528 seniors over the course of 2 nights and broke them into 2 categories: low lux group (<3 lux) and a light-at-night (LAN) group (> 3 lux).  For reference, a typical nightlight is under 3 lux and the first hints of twilight are about 3 lux.  This means that the LAN group likely had a light or TV on while they were sleeping.  This is not the time to get into a discussion about blue light (from computers, TV, room lighting, cell phones) and how it disrupts our sleep patterns, but feel free to research on your own.

Here is what the researchers found:

  1. Those with higher light exposure at night had an 89% greater risk of being obese (Tweet this).
  2. This group also had a 72% higher risk of having cholesterol problems (Tweet this).

While the research on the problems with night shift work as it relates to conditions such as cancer and depression is not new (previous posts on the negative effects of night shift working can be read by clicking here), this is the first time I’ve come across anything on this topic.

The bottom line is that you need to be very careful of the lighting that you have in your room at night, if any.  This of course needs to be balanced against the chance of tripping over your dog in the middle of the night (we’ve got four–the odds are pretty high of this happening…).  Consider a non-blue night light or looking into blue blocking glasses if you spend time watching TV or are on the computer at night.  Especially for your young children who need some light at night.

What kind of light are you exposed to at night?  But question–what kind of light are your kids exposed to?

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.