Sleep-Deprived People Eat More Calories, More Fat

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People struggling with weight loss may just need to get more sleep, a new study says.

According to researchers at Columbia University when people are sleep deprived they eat more calories and more fat compared to when they have had plenty of shut-eye. The findings, presented at an American Heart Association meeting today, add to the growing body of evidence that indicates that sleep is an important factor in maintaining a healthy weight.

The Sleep-Weight Connection

The medical community has known for quite some time that there is a connection between lack of sleep and weight gain. This is believed to be caused by a disruption in hormone processes which control metabolism and hunger cues. This study, however, is one of the first to examine actual food consumption as it relates to the number of hours a person has slept.

The researchers included 26 men and women of normal weight in their study. Half of the group were allowed to sleep for 4 hours per night for a total of 6 nights while the others slept 9 hours each night. For the first four nights the subjects were given a controlled diet. For the last two they were given the freedom to eat whatever they wanted.

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The results of the study showed that the sleep-deprived men ate, on average, 262 calories more and the women 328 calories more than those who were not sleep-deprived. Women also ate 31 grams more fat, however there was no significant difference in fat consumption among the men. Carbohydrate, sugar, sodium and fiber consumption were also unaffected by lack of sleep.

"Ice cream stood out as the preferred food during the sleep-deprived state," said Marie-Pierre St-Onge,the study's lead author and an assistant professor of clinical nutrition medicine at Columbia University. "Sleep deprivation makes you more susceptible to overeating, so that can be something to consider when you're trying to lose weight.

The extra consumption of 300 extra calories plus 30 grams of fat is significant when taken into consideration someone who may suffer from chronic lack of sleep. A McDonald's cheeseburger has approximately 300 calories and 30 grams of fat is the equivalent to drinking 3 ½ McDonald's milkshakes. Over time this excess calorie and fat consumption can lead to weight gain along with the development of other diseases that are associated with high-fat, high-calorie diets.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.

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