The Snacking-Sleeping Connection; Aging, Depression & Visceral Fat

Posted on February 5, 2009 by


This following two articles were discovered by Vicki Bernstein in a newsletter from the American Fitness Association – an association for older adults.

The Snacking-Sleeping Connection
The amount one snacks appears to be related to the amount of sleep one gets. That is the finding of University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, as summarized by the Pulse wire report.
In general, less sleeping may lead to more snacking. The study was conducted at the sleep research laboratory of the University of Chicago and was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers compared subjects who slept 8.5 hours per night with subjects who slept just 5.5 hours per night. Those who slept less took in, on the average, 220 more calories the following day.
Two particularly interesting results of this study apply to the lower-sleep, higher-calorie participants:
The additional calories they consumed came from extra snacking, which was undertaken mainly at night and which consisted mostly of carbohydrates; and
Their longer period of being awake was not characterized by being more active.
Persons interested in weight control or body fat reduction are well advised to take stock of their sleeping habits. Trimming off a significant number of unneeded calories on a regular basis could be as simple as getting more sleep every night.



Indeed!  Many people struggle initially in Genesis Transformation with late night ‘hunger’ – and whether this comes from the habit of high carbohydrate (refined) eating before bed, or that feeling of ‘something missing’ physically and replacing the need for sleep with food (refined carbs will give a boost followed by a let-down in the blood sugar) – it still doesn’t work for health and fat loss!  SLEEP is a very important component of health, and the lack of it has been attributed to a large variety of disturbances in health (including hormonal/endocrinal).    In order for the organs to function properly, they need rest and time to regenerate.  Simply getting more sleep is a far better answer than taking drugs to combat cortisol (a stress hormone)!

Aging, Depression, and Visceral Fat
Visceral fat is a dangerous type of internal body fat that surrounds, or accumulates around, internal organs. Often presenting as the “belly fat” to which the preceding article referred, visceral fat increases the risk for both heart disease and diabetes.
Now, in a rather disconcerting study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, scientists at Wake Forest University’s Sticht Center on Aging have reported that septuagenarians who are depressed are twice as likely to gain visceral fat, compared to their counterparts who are not depressed.
This link appears to be more complex than one for which obesity could account. Instead, there may be a biological connection between visceral fat and an individual’s mental state. Some researchers postulate that depression spurs excessive levels of cortisol, a stress hormone known to contribute toward the development of visceral fat.
For older adults, family caregivers, and professionals who serve aging clients, this study reinforces a crucial message: Do not ignore, overlook, or downplay the importance of symptoms of depression. Qualified medical treatment should be sought — not only to improve personal quality of life, but also to discourage the onset of heart disease and diabetes.



In Genesis Transformation we speak frequently of the ‘body following the brain’ – the importance of monitoring your thinking and your mental health.  This article speaks to that level of brain-body connection.  The take home message here is that there IS a connection between your mental state and the state of your body.  Attend to your mental health, attend to your thinking; practice loving YOU!  The body always responds positively to positive input.

Posted in: Food For Thought