Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Small Study Reveals How Poor Sleep Might Be Linked to Obesity, Diabetes

News Brief by Evan Balmuth

       A small-scale study has discovered that lack of sleep may be linked to obesity and diabetes. The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on October 15, compared the fat cells of participants who slept for four and a half hours per night to those of participants who slept for eight and a half hours per night during a four day period. The results, calculated by measuring the levels of phosphorylated enzyme Akt, revealed that the cells from sleep-deprived participants were 30 percent less responsive to insulin than the other participants' cells. Such a drop in efficiency is equivalent to that seen with ten to 20 years of aging, according to study co-author Matthew Brady. This inadequate insulin response in fat cells, also known as insulin resistance, causes lipids to spill into the bloodstream or surrounding tissue and is a known precursor to Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes.
Sleep deprivation is already recognized as a prevalent issue in the United States; the 2011 Sleep in America poll reported that a quarter of Americans ages 19 to 64 get less than seven hours of sleep on weeknights, while the National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours. However, until now many of the reasons for its recognition have been difficult to prove due to subjectivity of symptoms and confounding variables. Provided that this was a small study that compared just two sleep durations and included only one female participant, it still deserves praise; since this study has brought attention to a novel, metabolic consequence of sleep deprivation at the objective cellular level, the medical research and public health communities may begin to focus more of their resources on this widespread dilemma. And in the process, they may find keys to solving the parallel dilemmas of obesity and diabetes in the United States.

Petersen, Andrea. "Small Study Reveals How Poor Sleep Might Be Linked to Obesity, Diabetes." Wall Street Journal 15 Oct 2012, Personal Journal D2. Print. .

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