Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a complex condition comprising a ‘clustering’ of components representing cardiometabolic risk factors for heart disease and diabetes; its prevalence rate is high and consequences serious. Evidence suggests that light exposure patterns and misalignment of circadian rhythms might contribute to MetS etiology by impacting energy metabolism and glucose regulation.
We hypothesised that individuals with MetS would show disrupted circadian and sleep parameters alongside differences in light exposure profiles. We investigated this using data from a cohort study in Brazil.
Data from 103 individuals from the Baependi Heart Cohort Study aged between 50 and 70 were analysed. Motor activity and light exposure were measured using wrist-worn actigraphy devices. Cardiometabolic data were used to calculate the number of MetS components present in each participant, and participants grouped as MetS/non-MetS according to standard guidelines. Between-group comparisons were made for the actigraphy measures; additionally, correlation analyses were conducted.
Motor activity and circadian profiles showed no differences between groups. However, the MetS group presented lower light exposure during the day and higher light exposure at night. Correlation analyses, including all participants, showed that greater daytime light exposure and greater light exposure difference between day and night were associated with reduced MetS risk (a lower number of MetS components). Also, the light exposure difference between day and night correlated with body mass index across all participants.
The observed results suggest a direct association between light exposure and MetS which appears to not be attributable to disruptions in circadian activity rhythm nor to sleep parameters. This link between light exposure patterns and MetS risk could inform possible prevention strategies.