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Study: Lack of sleep can make you pile on the pounds

The participants consumed more than 300 extra calories per day during sleep restriction

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By Joe Morgan via SWNS

Lack of sleep can make you pile on the pounds, including dangerous unseen fat around the organs, according to a new study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

And it affects everyone - regardless of their age, health or size.

Sleep-deprived, whether shift-workers or people glued to screens, added fat around their stomachs as well as more dangerous internal visceral fat.

Too much work tired sleepy young woman sitting at her desk with books in front of laptop computer isolated grey wall office background. Busy schedule in college, workplace, sleep deprivation concept
(ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

And catching up on lost sleep didn't shift the harmful fat gained from lack of shut-eye.

People who get around four hours a night are at risk of a "significant increase" in fat, according to the findings.

Lack of sleep leads to a nine percent increase in total abdominal fat area and an 11 percent increase in abdominal visceral fat.

More than one-third of adults. routinely do not get enough sleep, in part due to shift work, as well as smart devices being used late into the night.

The study consisted of 12 healthy people who each spent two 21-day sessions in an in-patient setting.

Participants were randomly assigned to the control group, which had nine hours a night, or the restricted sleep group, four hours a night, and switched sleep schedules on the next study period.

Each group had access to a free choice of food throughout the study.

The participants consumed more than 300 extra calories per day during sleep restriction, eating approximately 13% more protein and 17% more fat.

That increase in consumption was highest in the early days of sleep deprivation and then tapered off to starting levels during the recovery period. Energy expenditure stayed mostly the same throughout.

Dr. Virend Somers, at the Mayo Clinic, said: "Our findings show that shortened sleep, even in young, healthy and relatively lean subjects, is associated with an increase in calorie intake, a very small increase in weight, and a significant increase in fat accumulation inside the belly.

"Normally, fat is preferentially deposited subcutaneously or under the skin.

"However, the inadequate sleep appears to redirect fat to the more dangerous visceral compartment."

"Importantly, although during recovery sleep there was a decrease in calorie intake and weight, visceral fat continued to increase.

"This suggests that inadequate sleep is a previously unrecognized trigger for visceral fat deposition and that catch-up sleep, at least in the short term, does not reverse the visceral fat accumulation.

"In the long term, these findings implicate inadequate sleep as a contributor to the epidemics of obesity, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases."

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Dr. Naima Covassin, cardiovascular medicine researcher, said: "Measures of weight alone would be falsely reassuring in terms of the health consequences of inadequate sleep.

"Also concerning are the potential effects of repeated periods of inadequate sleep in terms of progressive and cumulative increases in visceral fat over several years."

The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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