One night of sleep deprivation and 6 months on a high-fat diet could both impair insulin sensitivity to a similar degree, new research presented at ObesityWeek 2015 has shown.  

Josiane Broussard, PhD, and colleagues conducted a study in 8 canine models to evaluate whether sleep deprivation and a high-fat diet impact insulin sensitivity to the same extent. The team measured insulin action and beta-cell response before and after diet-induced obesity. Prior to high-fat diet, an IV glucose tolerance test was used to measure insulin sensitivity in canines that had one night of sleep deprivation. The results were compared to canines with a normal night of sleep. They were then given a high-fat diet for 6 months and were tested again. 

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Before the high-fat diet, one night of sleep deprivation lowered insulin sensitivity by 33%, which was similar to the reduction caused by a high-fat diet alone (21%). Once the canines had impaired insulin sensitivity from the high-fat diet, one night of sleep deprivation did not further impair the insulin sensitivity.

“One night of sleep deprivation and six months of a high-fat diet both reduced insulin sensitivity by a similar degree in canines; however, there was no additive effect of sleep loss and high-fat diet,” continued Dr. Broussard. “This may suggest a similar mechanism by which both insufficient sleep and a high-fat diet induce insulin resistance. It could also mean that after high-fat feeding, insulin sensitivity cannot be reduced further by sleep loss.”

Not only does sleep deprivation impair insulin sensitivity, but it can also lead to increased food intake and overall increased risk of metabolic diseases. 

“It is critical for health practitioners to emphasize the importance of sleep to their patients,” said Caroline M. Apovian, MD, FACP, FACN, a Fellow and spokesperson for The Obesity Society. “Many patients understand the importance of a balanced diet, but they might not have a clear idea of how critical sleep is to maintaining equilibrium in the body.”

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