Study: Lack of sleep may increase abdominal fat

Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 1:43 PM MST
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(CNN) – If you’re losing sleep at night, you may be gaining belly fat.

That’s according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Naima Covassin, a Mayo Clinic cardiovascular medicine researcher who led the study, said lack of sleep makes people snack more frequently, especially in the evenings.

“Insufficient sleep can influence our eating behavior, making us eat more and consume especially foods rich in carbohydrates and fat,” Covassin said.

The excess calorie intake can lead to weight gain.

Covassin said short sleep also seems to alter the hormones that regulate appetite, increasing the levels of the ones that make us hungry and decreasing the ones that make us feel full.

After two weeks of short sleep, the study’s participants noticed a difference, showing “not only an increase in body weight, but specifically an increase in belly fat,” Covassin said.

The increases were in both types of fat, subcutaneous and visceral. The latter is more dangerous.

Even a small increase in visceral fat over time can have a big impact on your health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it can increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and other serious health conditions like diabetes.

For adults, at least seven hours of sleep each night is recommended.

“We hope that people will recognize the implications of insufficient sleep for weight management and for obesity risk, even for young, healthy, lean people,” Covassin said.

The researchers said they want to further study what may cause fat when there’s sleep loss, and whether those who have pre-existing risk factors, like those with diabetes, are at a higher risk of weight gain if they’re sleep deprived.

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