Effects of dim or bright-light exposure during the daytime on human gastrointestinal activity

Chronobiol Int. 2003 Jan;20(1):123-33. doi: 10.1081/cbi-120017688.


On the basis of our previous findings that bright-light exposure during the daytime has profound influence on physiological parameters such as melatonin secretion and tympanic temperature in humans, we proposed the hypothesis that bright vs. dim light-exposure during the daytime has a different influence on the activity of the digestive system via the endocrine and/or autonomic nervous system. To examine this hypothesis, we conducted a series of counterbalanced experiments in which subjects stayed the daytime (7:00 to 15:00h) under either a dim (80 lux) or bright (5,000 lux) light condition. We measured gastrointestinal activity using a breath hydrogen (indicative of carbohydrate malabsorption) and an electrogastrography (EGG, indicative of gastric myoelectric activity) test. The results showed the postprandial breath hydrogen excretion during the following nighttime period after daytime exposure to the dim-light condition was significantly higher than under the bright-light condition (p < 0.05). In addition, the spectrum total power of the EGG recorded after taking the evening meal was significantly lower for the dim than bright-light condition (p < 0.05). These results support our hypothesis and indicate that dim-light exposure during the daytime suppresses the digestion of the evening meal, resulting in malabsorption of dietary carbohydrates in it.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Area Under Curve
  • Breath Tests
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Eating
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / metabolism
  • Light*
  • Photoperiod


  • Hydrogen