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Treatment with UV light could be the newest fat-loss technique to help obese patients lose weight!

Treatment with UV light could be the newest fat-loss technique to help obese patients lose weight!
Did you know that India saw a weight-loss surgery every half hour in 2019, as per a Lancet study? The country has witnessed a concerning rate of growth of obesity in the past few decades, in part due to the affordability and increasing accessibility of unhealthy, processed food.

While most obese patients understand the consequences and severity of being overweight, they may not possess the necessary mental, financial, or even genetic tools to shed the stubborn fat. In fact, a NIHR study has shown that only about 1 in 100 obese people actually manage to reach a healthy weight again, meaning that current methods really aren’t working.

As obesity and metabolic disorders become problems of epidemic proportions, the nation needs innovative strategies to tackle their rising prevalence, pronto. And if the idea of weight loss pills, gastric bypass or hormonal treatment doesn’t tickle your fancy, you might soon be able to opt for the gentle tanning bed route.
Burn it all
In an effort to understand the broader impacts of ultraviolet (UV) exposure beyond its well-known effects on skin health, dermatologists from Seoul National University Hospital sought out to explore how UV radiation affects appetite and weight management.

Interestingly, the researchers discovered that UV exposure increases the levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that enhances energy expenditure and appetite by reducing leptin levels — a key hormone in appetite regulation.

Furthermore, UV radiation promotes the conversion of white fat into brown fat, a process known as browning, which increases energy expenditure and prevents weight gain, despite an increased appetite. In short, imagine a tanning bed that makes you burn fat while making you hungrier.

In mouse models, consistent UV exposure led to increased food intake due to lowered leptin levels, but did not result in weight gain. The enhanced secretion of norepinephrine stimulated the browning of subcutaneous fat, converting the increased energy intake into heat rather than allowing it to accumulate as fat. The radiation was making them hotter, literally and societally.
Problems with the process
Despite its promising potential in managing obesity, the researchers have cautioned that we need to first manage the risks associated with UV exposure, such as skin ageing and increased risk of skin cancer. While protective measures like sunscreen can minimise these issues, future studies will be necessary to focus on developing new strategies that mimic the beneficial effects of UV radiation without its detrimental impacts.

Further, more research is necessary to fully understand the long-term effects and safety of UV exposure. The team plans to explore therapeutic approaches that leverage the efficacy of UV radiation in a controlled and safe manner, aiming to harness its benefits for metabolic health without compromising skin health.

The findings of this research have been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology and can be accessed here.


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