Getting more sleep curbs sugar cravings, study finds

Studies have also shown that two weeks of sleep deprivation increases the consumption of excess calories, particularly from energy-dense, high-carbohydrate snacks. 

A woman with sugar cravings looking at cupcake. Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock


Sleeping more improves people’s diets, especially when it comes to cutting down sugar. These are the results of a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Other research has also identified links between sleep, health, and obesity, with diet as a mediating factor. After performing a meta-analysis of previous intervention studies, the researchers found that partial sleep deprivation caused a 385-kcal increase in energy intake with no compensatory effects on energy expenditure. If sleep deprivation is sustained, this net positive energy balance may easily lead to weight gain and eventually obesity.

Studies have also shown that two weeks of sleep deprivation increases the consumption of excess calories particularly from energy-dense, high-carbohydrate snacks. The current study reports similar findings but is unique because it is the first to test healthy adults under free living conditions for the duration of four weeks. 

The scientists recruited 42 participants who are habitual short sleepers and put them in two groups. The control group maintained their sleep habits, while the intervention group went through a personalized sleep consultation session with the goal of extending time in bed by 1-1.5 hours per night. 

Image: Ghostbed.

The consultation was conducted with a health psychologist and focused on improving the participants’ sleep hygiene practices which include avoiding excessive caffeine intake late in the day, avoiding going to bed too full or too hungry, and others that were relevant to the participant’s lifestyle. 

The intervention group was also asked to identify barriers to achieving their selected behaviors, and were assisted to create implementation intentions. Implementation intentions are a useful self-regulatory strategy that helps people plan for unexpected challenges in achieving their goals by writing out “if-then” scenarios. In the end, the participants were prescribed a recommended bedtime, which was outlined in a “behavioral contract.”

As a result of the sleep advice, 86 percent of the group increased time spent in bed and half increased their sleep duration (ranging from 52 minutes to nearly 90 minutes). After four weeks, the sleep extension group had reduced their intake of sugar by an average of 11.8 g/day, equating to approximately one-third of the UK dietary guidelines’ daily allowance. There was also a trend towards a reduced fat intake.

There were, however, no significant differences between the two groups when it came to levels of physical activity, energy expenditure, or body weight. It appears that the quality of our sleep affects the overall quality of our diets, with sleep extension leading to a tendency to select foods with lower fat and higher protein contents.

"We hope to investigate this finding further with longer-term studies examining nutrient intake and continued adherence to sleep extension behaviours in more detail, especially in populations at risk of obesity or cardio-vascular disease," the authors say. 

The scientists point out that the sleep extension strategy they used is effective and easy to implement, so sleep hygiene guidelines should be used in public health messages.

 

 

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CRISPR therapy cures first genetic disorder inside the body

It marks a breakthrough in using gene editing to treat diseases.

Credit: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.

—JENNIFER DOUDNA

"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.

—FYODOR URNOV

If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

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