Could sunlight have an affect on weight gain?

Suzanne Monaghan
November 19, 2018 - 4:00 am

Victoria Shibut | Dreamstime.com

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — There's a reason why people are more likely to gain weight from late fall through winter and it's not just because of the holidays. A nutritionist says that a lack of sunlight increases appetite and cravings.  

People tend to toss the salads and reach for comfort foods when it gets dark earlier, according to psychotherapist and nutritionist Dr. Susan Macey. The mood-regulating chemical serotonin may be to blame.

"When it starts getting darker earlier, our serotonin levels tend to drop off earlier in the day. Our circadian rhythms get a little out of whack and when that happens, we're not making the chemical serotonin which is that feel good chemical," she told KYW Newsradio.

Macey says that leads to the desire for high-calorie foods. 

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"Our pleasure sensor stays lit the entire time we're eating salt, sugar and fat. That's why we can eat a 16-inch pizza right, but not the same amount of broccoli. You want that because you're wanting that feel-good, that 'ah factor' I call it. Potato chips, pizza, candy,things like that, so we tend to gravitate toward those cause we feel like we need to have more energy," she said.

But Macey says certain healthy foods can reduce the urge to overindulge. Eating lean proteins, healthy grains and vegetables curb the cravings.

"Good grains like your quinoa, things like that, that helps us feel good. When we're eating chicken and turkey and fish and green leafy vegetables, those are things that boast up our serotonin."

Macey also says taking Vitamin D, exercising and getting enough sleep can also help make sure the winter blues don't go to your waistline.