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Your waistline in the 24/7 culture of the modern world

According to a new research presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Lisbon, sleep loss increases the risk of obesity through a combination of effects on energy metabolism. This research highlights how disrupted sleep patterns a common feature of modern living can predispose individuals to weight gain by affecting their appetite and responses to food and exercise.

We live in a 24/7 culture of the modern world; lack of quality sleep in several studies is correlated to weight gain.  While the cause of increased obesity risk from sleep disruption is unclear, it may relate to changes in appetite, metabolism, motivation, physical activity or a combination of factors.

The research study reveals that metabolically healthy, sleep-deprived human subjects prefer larger food portions, seek more calories, exhibit signs of increased food-related impulsivity, experience more pleasure from food, and expend less energy.

The group’s physiological studies indicate that sleep loss shifts the hormonal balance from hormones that promote fullness (satiety), such as GLP-1, to those that promote hunger, such as ghrelin. Sleep restriction also increased levels of endocannabinoids, which is known to have appetite-promoting effects. Further work from Dr Benedict’s team shows that acute sleep loss alters the balance of gut bacteria, which has been widely implicated as key for maintaining a healthy metabolism. The same study also found reduced sensitivity to insulin after sleep loss.

Dr Christian Benedict from Uppsala University, Sweden remarks that “Since perturbed sleep is such a common feature of modern life, these studies show it is no surprise that metabolic disorders, such as obesity are also on the rise.”

While Dr Benedict’s work has shed light on how short periods of sleep loss can affect energy metabolism, however, longer-term studies are needed to validate these findings.

Dr Christian Benedict says, “My studies suggest that sleep loss favors weight gain in humans. It may also be concluded that improving sleep could be a promising lifestyle intervention to reduce the risk of future weight gain.”

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Materials provided by European Society of Endocrinology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.