Dr. Phil Shares: The Surprising Connection Between Obesity and Artificial Light

The Surprising Connection Between Obesity and Artificial Light

Before you crawl into bed tonight, turn out the lights and power down your devices. Exposure to artificial light — from sources such as overhead lights, smartphones and televisions — was associated with higher rates of obesity, according to new research published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study included almost 44,000 women between the ages of 35–74 over a six-year period and found women who were exposed to artificial light while sleeping had a 17% higher risk of gaining approximately 11 pounds compared to those who slept in the dark; their rates of obesity were 33% higher. Women who fell asleep with a television or light on were also more apt to gain weight and become overweight or obese over time.

LIGHT AND CIRCADIAN RHYTHM

“Humans are genetically adapted to be active during daylight and sleep in darkness at night,” explains lead author Dr. Yong-Moon (“Mark”) Park, MD, postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health. “Exposure to light at night while sleeping could alter the body’s 24-hour body clock leading to changes in hormones and other biological processes that regulate sleep, appetite and weight gain.”

While the study focused on exposure to artificial light in the bedroom but Park notes that light coming from outside the room — from other rooms or street lights, for example — was also associated with a slightly increased risk of weight gain. The study did not explore whether overall exposure to artificial light, including daytime exposures, had an impact on weight.

THE SLEEP-WEIGHT CONNECTION

Several studies have linked sleep issues, including insomnia, sleep duration and sleep disruptions, to higher rates of obesity. Research published in the journal Sleep Medicine found the incidence of obesity was higher among those who slept fewer than six hours or more than nine hours per night; chronic insomnia was also associated with higher BMI, according to one study.

The link between sleep and obesity is one reason to make improving sleep a priority, says Lu Qi, MD, PhD, director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center. But sleep is just one of the known risk factors for obesity. Lifestyle factors such as an unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress and smoking are also linked to an increased likelihood of being overweight or obese.

THE TAKEAWAY

“Even if you improve your sleep habits, you still need to pay attention to other risk factors,” says Qi. “We also need to be cautious in interpreting these results; artificial light might be a factor but it could be correlated to other habits that were not part of this study.”

Park agrees, adding, “While our study provides stronger evidence than other previous studies it is still not conclusive. Even so, it seems reasonable to advise people not to sleep with lights on. Turning off the lights at bedtime may be a simple thing we can do to reduce the chances of gaining weight.”

by Jodi Helmer

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Laura: How Sugar Ages the Brain

Vulnerable populations with long term unmanaged blood sugar levels are subject to brain atrophy (shrinkage) and accelerated brain changes including memory loss and cognitive decline.

Memory Lapses?

Vulnerable populations with long term unmanaged blood sugar levels are subject to accelerated brain changes including memory loss and cognitive decline. 

Who’s most at risk?

Most at risk are those with Diabetes type I and II monitor sugar regularly and those with metabolic syndrome or cardiovascular disease. 

But that’s not all. 

Anyone with long term fluctuating blood sugar levels could be at risk for cognitive decline. So those with chronic stress are also at risk. Stress elevates cortisol, which subsequently activates sugar into the blood stream. This is really helpful when we need the energy to physically run from the tiger.  However, in our day in age, the tiger is more likely to be the boss, the lack of sleep, the poor diet, or the overscheduled.  Stress, namely long-term cortisol release, affects the microbiome. Certain drugs like antibiotics and oral birth control pills can also change the microbiome. Shifts in populations of gut bacteria can evidently impact blood glucose regulation. Overgrowth of candida can make us crave sugars and leave us in a state of flux or what we have now termed “hangry”. 

If you are the hangry type, you likely have issues with blood sugar. 

A state of blood sugar surges and crashes overtime will lead to unfortunate hippocampus affects, namely sugar induced shrinkage and memory challenges. 

Those at risk:

  • long term fluctuating blood sugar levels
  • history of oral birth control use
  • history of antibiotic use
  • diabetic patients on metformin
  • elevated cortisol
  • chronic stress
  • poor diet
  • lack of moderate regular exercise
  • disrupted sleep patterns

What’s a healthy blood sugar level?

Guidelines for healthy levels are subject to some interpretation, however from a functional medicine point of view, HbA1c should be between 4.6 and 5.3% and fasting blood sugar levels are healthiest around 4-6mmol/L. Note that those with red blood cell disease like sickle cell anemia, which change the shape of the blood cell, HbA1c is not a reliable marker and other markers like triglycerides, and fasting blood sugar levels must be taken into account. 

Protect your brain

Protect memory and cognition with adequate blood supply, high levels ofanthocyanins, appropriate levels of B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and a diet low in sugar and high in fibre, protein and healthy fats. Caution with drugs like metformin, which help regulate blood sugar in diabetics and is associated with cognitive decline. Apparently, this could be due to a number of factors, and not just the drug directly; it is therefore important to monitor B2 (riboflavin), B6, B12 when on metformin. 

It is important to include in the diet:

  • high levels of anthocyanins
  • plant powers found in dark blue and purple fruits and vegetables
  • consistent intake of B-vitamins 
  • egg yolks, red meat, liver, clams, mussels, avocados and dark leafy greens
  • daily dose of omega-3 essential fatty acids
  • cold water fatty fish like salmon and sardines
  • flax, hemp and walnut

Is diet alone enough?

Is diet enough to keep up with the demands of cognitive decline? It is difficult to know as diets of many individuals need to be followed for years and it is difficult to control what people eat on a daily basis for any length of time. First and fore most get what you can from the diet, yes, this is critical as the body knows best how to get nutrients from food. Insulin sensitivity is an important factor in blood glucose regulation and a short-term keto diet and or fasting is proven to be effective method to reset it. 

Reduce the risk factors as indicated above and get help to re-set the microbiome. That means create a sleep routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every night. Move your body every day for about 30 minutes. It means to have space in the day that is not filled with tasks and demands. Take appropriate supplements where diet falls short or medications deplete. 

Memory and cognition decline over time. It doesn’t happen overnight. So too should your changes and lifestyle reflect a long-term plan. If you feel you need help, Naturopathic Doctors are trained in lifestyle and laboratory analysis, diet, nutrition and nutraceuticals. 

Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND is a registered naturopathic doctor with a functional medicine approach.  She has advanced training in pharmaceuticals, is a certified HeartMath Practitioner and a Certified Gluten Free Practitioner  and holds the designation of ADAPT Trained Practitioner from Kresser Institute, the only functional medicine and ancestral health training company.

References:

Cui X, Abduljalil A, Manor BD, Peng CK, Novak V. Multi-scale glycemic variability: a link to gray matter atrophy and cognitive decline in type 2 diabetes. PLoS One. 2014;9(1):e86284. Published 2014 Jan 24. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086284

Zhao X, Han Q, Lv Y, Sun L, Gang X, Wang G. Biomarkers for cognitive decline in patients with diabetes mellitus: evidence from clinical studies. Oncotarget. 2017;9(7):7710–7726. Published 2017 Dec 14. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.23284

Dr. Laura: Strengthen Super Powers of the Immune

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What you’ll learn

Build your immune super powers to stay strong and healthy. Once you get a cold or flu virus, most remedies only lessen the severity of symptoms. The real trick is to build an army of defense and prevent the invading virus or bacteria from taking hold. This is important year-round, but especially as the cold and flu season emerges.  In this one-hour educational seminar meet your 38 trillion partners in health and learn the most important nutrients, medicinal plants and personal habits that will increase your stamina all winter long

Register today!

Call 519.822.8900 to reserve your spot for September 25th at 5:30pm.

About

Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND is a registered naturopathic doctor with a functional medicine approach.  She has advanced training in pharmaceuticals, is a certified HeartMath Practitioner and a Certified Gluten Practitioner  and holds the designation of ADAPT Trained Practitioner from Kresser Institute, the only Functional Medicine and ancestral health training company.