In a new study, researchers found that just a few days of sleep deprivation can make people feel less full after eating and metabolize the fat in food differently.
This finding adds to the mounting evidence about just how harmful lack of sleep can be.
The research was conducted by a team from Pennsylvania State University.
Sleep disruption has been known to have harmful effects on metabolism for some time.
Previous research has shown that long-term sleep restriction puts people at a higher risk of obesity and diabetes.
However, most of those studies have focused on glucose metabolism, which is important for diabetes, while relatively few have assessed digestion of lipids from food.
In the study, 15 healthy young men spent a week getting plenty of sleep at home.
They then checked into the sleep lab for the ten-night study. For five of those nights, the participants spent no more than five hours in bed each night.
To find out how the uncomfortable schedule affected metabolism, the researchers gave participants a standardized high-fat dinner, a bowl of chili mac, after four nights of sleep restriction.
Most participants felt less satisfied after eating the same rich meal while sleep-deprived than when they had eaten it well-rested.
Then researchers compared blood samples from the study participants.
They found that sleep restriction affected the postprandial lipid response, leading to faster clearance of lipids from the blood after a meal.
That could predispose people to put on weight.
The simulated workweek ended with a simulated Friday and Saturday night when participants could spend ten hours in bed catching up on missed shut-eye.
After the first night, they ate one last bowl of chili mac.
Although participants’ metabolic handling of fat from food was slightly better after a night of recovery sleep, they didn’t recover to the baseline healthy level.
The team says the study gives worthwhile insight into how we handle fat digestion. Future work will test the findings in older men with high heart disease risk and in women.
One author of the study is Orfeu Buxton, a professor at Penn State.
The study is published in the Journal of Lipid Research.
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