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Light at Night May Cause Weight Gain

Several studies have shown that being exposed to light at night can throw off our biological rhythms. A WVU neuroscientist is now exploring whether limiting exposure to light at night may be a new way to treat weight gain.

Randy Nelson, chair of the Department of Neuroscience at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, found that exposure to light, even in small doses like a nightlight, can cause weight gain in animal models.

The research found that when animals are exposed to light at night, the subjects ate around the clock and were therefore heavier than their counterparts who had bright days and dark nights.

Part of the problem with eating late at night, Nelson said in a press release, is not just eating more, but that the body is actually designed to metabolism calories faster during the daytime. So at night our bodies don’t process the food as well.

West Virginia is ranked first in the country for rates of obesity and second for diabetes, an obesity related disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.

Copyright 2019 West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Kara Leigh Lofton is the Appalachia Health News Coordinator at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Previously Kara was a freelance reporter for WMRA, an affiliate of NPR serving the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville in Virginia. There she produced 70 radio reports in her first year of reporting, most often on health or environmental topics. One of her reports, “Trauma Workers Find Solace in a Pause That Honors Life After a Death,” circulated nationally after proving to be an all-time favorite among WMRA’s audience.