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Link Between Sleep And Weight Gain Discovered

August 1, 2011

A new study scheduled to be published in the August edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found a link between weight gain and sleep deprivation, according to a Friday article by Generva Pittman of Reuters Health.


As part of the study, researchers from the Obesity Research Center at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, in New York, the Columbia University Departments of Medicine and Biostatistics, and the University of Manitoba Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals studied 15 men and 15 women.


All study participants were between the ages of 30 and 49, said to be of "normal" weight (i.e. a body mass index of 22-26kg/m2), and regularly slept for between seven and nine hours each night.


According to the paper describing the clinical trial, which is currently available online, "All participants were studied under short (4 h/night) and habitual (9 h/night) sleep conditions, in random order, for 5 nights each. Food intake was measured on day 5, and energy expenditure was measured with the doubly labeled water method over each period."


"Our data show that a reduction in sleep increases energy and fat intakes, which may explain the associations observed between sleep and obesity," the authors wrote
. "If sustained, as observed, and not compensated by increased energy expenditure, the dietary intakes of individuals undergoing short sleep predispose to obesity."


According to Pittman's take on the study, during one of the visits, participants were allowed to sleep for nine hours each night, while during the other they received a mere four hours of slumber. In both cases, the subjects were held to a fixed diet for the first four days, and then permitted to consume whatever they wanted to during the final 24 hour period.


"When they were sleep-deprived, they fed themselves about 300 more calories on average on the final day of the study compared to when they had been sleeping normally," the Reuters Health reporter said, adding that the authors assert that "if that kept up in a person's normal daily life, it would put the sleep-deprived at higher risk of obesity."


Pittman notes that the findings of the study do not prove that going without sleep will cause people to "pack on extra pounds," but as University of Pennsylvania sleep disorder expert Michael Grandner told her, the results of the research prove that getting a good night's sleep "should be a priority."


"If you're making your diet a priority and trying to be healthy, don't forget that getting healthy sleep is probably an extremely important part of being healthy," Grandner, who was not involved in the new work, told Reuters. He added that overnight rest "seems to play a role in how your body manages the hormones that control how hungry you are, when you're hungry (and) what kinds of foods you're hungry for."

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"Our data show that a reduction in sleep increases energy and fat intakes, which may explain the associations observed between sleep and obesity," the authors wrote. "If sustained, as observed, and not compensated by increased energy expenditure, the dietary intakes of individuals undergoing short sleep predispose to obesity."