Sun shines on diabetes study


Dr Shelley Gorman will investigate how low-level sun exposure can help people with type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Dr Shelley Gorman will investigate how low-level sun exposure can help people with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Senior Research Fellow Shelley Gorman and her colleagues will investigate the findings from a 2014 study that established a connection between low doses of UV exposure and the reduced weight gain in a study of mice with a high-fat diet.

Royal Perth Hospital-based Diabetes Research WA recently awarded the project a $75,000 grant to continue the research.

The 2014 study led researchers to suspect the sun had a positive impact on metabolic processes, causing the skin to release stored nitric oxide.

Dr Gorman said she was thrilled the funding would help them unravel the mystery.

“One of the pathways this grant looks at is in the brown adipose tissue in the neck,” she said.

“Ultimately, this project could see the creation of health policies encouraging people to expose their skin to safe amounts of sunlight while exercising or being involved in outdoor activities as a way of helping keep obesity and type 2 diabetes at bay.”

Dr Gorman said researchers would work alongside the Cancer Council if they were to develop policies about exposure to low- level UV rays.

Diabetes Research WA executive director Sherl Westlund said the project, which could be completed by the end of the year, was very exciting.

“Already 1.2 million Australians have diabetes and every day another 280 people are diagnosed with it – that’s one person every five minutes – so if we could harness the power of a free resource such as sunlight to bring down rates of type 2 diabetes, that would be incredible,” she said.

It is predicted that by 2040, 642 million people, or one in 10 people. will be diabetic globally.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for roughly 90 per cent of all cases.