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Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning

Visceral fat, or belly fat, is a smoking gun. Hiding deep inside your abdominal cavity, the fatty substance can hike your risk of serious health problems, ranging from diabetes to heart disease. Poor dietary choices can pave the way to this type of belly fat but your diet isn’t the only risk factor, according to research.

It’s no secret that good sleep hygiene is the cornerstone of healthy living.

Worryingly, sleeping problems have been creeping up in the UK ever since the Covid pandemic threw the world into chaos.

However, research continues to highlight that a lack of sleep can increase your risk of various health conditions, such as heart attacks or dementia.

Now, can you snort wellbutrin to get high a new study, published in the journal Sleep Medicine, suggests that not getting enough sleep every night could make you more prone to visceral fat.

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Unlike subcutaneous fat, you can’t pinch visceral fat between your fingers.

This type of belly fat accumulates around the torso and surrounds some of your vital organs, contributing to a beer belly and apple body shape.

Looking at data from more than 5,000 adults from two rounds of the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2011 and 2013, the international research team asked participants to rate their sleep from one hour to 12. 

The research looked at both men and women aged between 18 to 59.

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Using X-ray imaging, the team calculated the participants’ regional body fat percentages.

The average amount of sleep among the study subjects was slightly under seven hours. 

The findings suggested that one less hour of sleep, with seven to eight hours being the goal, was tied to an overall increase of about 12 grams of visceral fat mass.

The researchers also noticed that the benefit of sleep duration plateaued at eight hours.   

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One of the reasons which may explain the link between sleep deprivation and visceral fat levels, is that a lack of sleep leads to abnormal regulation of activity in different parts of the brain that affect the reward centre, sleep, and appetite.

Sleep deprivation is believed to cause a drop in leptin – the hormone that decreases the appetite – and an increase in ghrelin, the hormone which signals to the brain that it’s time to eat. 

Furthermore, it also causes the system which affects food intake and sleep patterns to go haywire.

The researchers suggested that this could explain higher caloric intake and subsequent weight gain as a result.

Insufficient sleep can also trigger insulin resistance, which many scientists link to high visceral fat. 

Dr Panagiotis Giannos said: “Our study adds to emerging evidence suggesting a prominent link between sleep deprivation and weight gain, which could be clinically significant, as visceral adiposity is associated with metabolic issues such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

Worryingly, too much visceral fat can increase your risk of serious metabolic conditions, including high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and insulin resistance, and more.

The good news is that a healthy diet rich in fibre and protein as well as exercise could help stamp the fatty culprit out.

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