A new study says the amount of light kids are exposed to throughout the day may have an impact on their weight.
kids playing outside at sunset
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The amount of light exposure your kids get and the time of day they are getting it may be impacting their weight, a small study reveals.

Researchers studied a group of children ages 3 to 5 from six different daycare centers. For a two-week period, they measured the tots' sleep, activity, and exposure to light, along with height and weight to calculate their BMI. They then followed up 12 months later.

"We found moderate intensity exposure earlier in the day was associated with increased body mass index, while children who received their biggest dose of light—outdoors and indoors—in the afternoon were slimmer," said Ph.D. student Cassandra Pattinson. At the 12-month follow-up, she added, the kids who had more total light exposure had higher body mass.

With approximately 42 million children around the globe younger than 5 classified as overweight or obese, Pattinson said the results represent a significant breakthrough. "Artificial lighting, including light given off by tablets, mobile phones, night lights, and television, means modern children are exposed to more environmental light than any previous generation," she explained. "This increase in light exposure has paralleled global increases in obesity."

The next step, Pattinson said, is to figure out how the research can be used in the fight against obesity in children. "This research suggests that exposure to different types of light (both artificial and natural) at different times now needs to be part of the conversation about the weight of children," she said. "Factors that impact on obesity include calorie intake, decreased physical activity, short sleep duration, and variable sleep timing. Now light can be added to the mix."

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Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.