Ambient light intensity is signaled directly to hypothalamic areas that regulate energy metabolism. Observational studies have shown associations between ambient light intensity and plasma glucose and lipid levels, but human data on the acute metabolic effects of light are scarce. Since light is the main signal indicating the onset of the diurnal phase of physical activity and food intake in humans, we hypothesized that bright light would affect glucose and lipid metabolism. Therefore, we determined the acute effects of bright light on plasma glucose and lipid concentrations in 2 randomized crossover trials: (1) in 8 healthy lean men and (2) in 8 obese men with type 2 diabetes. From 0730 h, subjects were exposed to either bright light (4000 lux) or dim light (10 lux) for 5 h. After 1 h of light exposure, subjects consumed a 600-kcal mixed meal. Primary endpoints were fasting and postprandial plasma glucose levels. In healthy men, bright light did not affect fasting or postprandial plasma glucose levels. However, bright light increased fasting and postprandial plasma triglycerides. In men with type 2 diabetes, bright light increased fasting and postprandial glucose levels. In men with type 2 diabetes, bright light did not affect fasting triglyceride levels but increased postprandial triglyceride levels. We show that ambient light intensity acutely affects human plasma glucose and triglyceride levels. Our findings warrant further research into the consequences of the metabolic effects of light for the diagnosis and prevention of hyperglycemia and dyslipidemia.
- Journal Article