Lack of 'sufficient' sleep can lead to 11% increase in visceral fat in the belly – study – Express
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Visceral fat is stored deep within the belly, and it acts to protect and insulate our vital organs. While this means a certain amount of it is needed, too much can be harmful. In fact, having an excess of visceral fat has been linked to conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Like subcutaneous fat, which is found under the skin, it is well established that what you eat and how much you exercise can have an impact on how much visceral fat is in your body.
While this can seem unachievable to some people, one expert has recommended another way to tackle visceral fat.
Certified personal trainer at Ultimate Performance, Emily Servante, advised getting more sleep.
Speaking with Express.co.uk, she said: “So, what can you do to get rid of this invisible but potentially deadly fat?
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“The most obvious thing you can do is lose weight. Losing weight will improve your visceral fat – full stop.
“But, before you start pounding the treadmill seven days a week or reducing your diet to scoffing platefuls of nothing but broccoli, there is one very simple, very easy thing you can do to target visceral fat – go to bed earlier!
“Decreased sleep time is directly linked to increased body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage and visceral fat.
“In fact, new research from the Mayo Clinic shows that a lack of sufficient sleep can lead to an 11 percent increase in abdominal visceral fat.”
As part of this study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 12 healthy participants were split into two groups – one which slept for up to four hours a night and the other that slept for up to nine hours over a two week period.
Not only did the group sleeping four hours a night see their visceral abdominal fat increase by 11 percent in that time, but their total abdominal fat increased by nine percent.
This was due to the fact those in the sleep deprived group ate on average 300 calories more per day than the others.
Ms Servante said: “Another study compared dieters who slept eight hours, versus those who slept just 5.5 hours a night, over a 14-day period.
READ MORE: ‘Ultra-processed’ diet found to cause more than 10% of premature deaths – what to avoid“The results showed those who were sleep deprived saw their weight loss efforts decrease by more than 50 percent, as well as increased hunger.”
This paper – that was published in Annals of Internal Medicine – says: “The amount of human sleep contributes to the maintenance of fat-free body mass at times of decreased energy intake.
“Lack of sufficient sleep may compromise the efficacy of typical dietary interventions for weight loss and related metabolic risk reduction.”
Ms Servante added: “Of course, it’s not just about the quantity of your sleep, but also the quality of your sleep.”
It is not possible to know how much visceral fat is hidden in the body without imaging tests.
But you can get a rough estimate by measuring your waist using the belly button as a marker.
For women 35 inches or more can signal visceral fat and for men it’s 40 inches.
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