Lack of sleep increases unhealthy belly fat

New research from the Mayo Clinic shows that a lack of adequate sleep combined with unrestricted access to food increases calorie expenditure and consequently fat accumulation, particularly unhealthy fat in the abdomen.

Results from a randomized, controlled, crossover study led by Cardiovascular Medicine Investigator Naima Covassin, Ph.D. and an 11% increase in abdominal viscera resulted in fat, compared to control sleep. Visceral fat is deposited deep in the abdomen around internal organs and is closely linked to heart and metabolic diseases.

The results will be published in Journal of the American College of Cardiologyand the study was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Lack of sleep is often a behavioral choice, and that choice has become increasingly ubiquitous. More than a third of US adults routinely don’t get enough sleep, due in part to shift work and the use of smart devices and social media during traditional sleep times. Also, people tend to eat more during longer waking hours without increasing physical activity.

“Our results show that shortened sleep is associated with increased calorie intake, very little weight gain, and a significant increase in abdominal fat accumulation, even in young, healthy, and relatively lean subjects,” says Virend Somers. MD, Ph.D., Alice Sheets Marriott Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and principal investigator on the study.

“Typically, fat is preferentially deposited subcutaneously, or under the skin. However, insufficient sleep appears to divert fat to the more dangerous visceral compartment. Importantly, although calorie intake and weight decreased during recovery sleep, visceral fat continued to increase. This suggests that insufficient sleep is a previously unrecognized trigger for visceral fat accumulation and that catching up on sleep, at least in the short term, does not reverse visceral fat accumulation. Over the long term, these results suggest that insufficient sleep contributes to epidemics of obesity, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases,” says Dr. Somers.

The study cohort consisted of 12 healthy, non-obese individuals who each spent two 21-day sessions in the inpatient setting. After a three-month washout period, participants were randomly assigned to the control (normal sleep) or restricted sleep group during one session and to the opposite group during the next session. Each group had access to free choice of food throughout the study. Researchers monitored and measured energy intake; Power consumption; Body weight; body composition; fat distribution, including visceral fat or fat in the abdomen; and circulating appetite biomarkers.

The first four days were an adjustment period. During this time, all participants were allowed to sleep in bed for nine hours. In the following two weeks, the sleep-restricted group was allowed to sleep four hours and the control group nine hours. Three days and nights of recovery followed, with nine hours of bed rest for both groups.

Participants consumed more than 300 extra calories per day during the sleep restriction and ate about 13% more protein and 17% more fat compared to the acclimation period. This increase in consumption was highest in the early days of sleep deprivation and then returned to baseline levels during the recovery phase. Energy consumption remained essentially the same throughout the period.

“The visceral fat accumulation was only detected by CT scans and would otherwise have been missed, especially since the weight gain was quite modest – only about a pound,” says Dr. covassin “Weight measurements alone would be falsely reassuring about the health consequences of insufficient sleep. Also of concern is the potential impact of repeated periods of insufficient sleep in the form of a progressive and cumulative increase in visceral fat over several years.”

dr Somers says behavioral interventions like increased exercise and healthy diet choices need to be considered for people who can’t easily avoid sleep disorders, such as those who have trouble sleeping. B. Shift workers. More studies are needed to determine how these results in healthy young people relate to those at higher risk, such as B. those who are already overweight or have metabolic syndrome or diabetes.

Reference: “Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Energy Intake, Energy Expenditure, and Visceral Obesity” by Naima Covassin PhD, Prachi Singh PhD, Shelly K McCrady-Spitzer MS, Erik K St Louis MD, Andrew D Calvin MD, James A Levine MD, PhD and Virend K. Somers MD, PhD, March 28, 2022, Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2022.01.038

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