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science nutrition blog

science nutrition <strong>blog</strong>

By Steve Blechman




Lack of sleep has been shown to increases the stress hormone called glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are steroid hormones that include the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands located above each kidney. The adrenal glands are composed of two parts: the cortex and the medulla. Cortisol is produced in the adrenal cortex. Cortisol controls the metabolism and use of proteins, fat and carbohydrates. It also increases blood sugar and regulates blood pressure.

Chronically high levels of cortisol suppress the immune system and are an important component of overtraining syndrome that plagues intensely trained athletes. High levels of cortisol can promote weight gain by increasing caloric and fat intake, resulting in greater body fat. Cortisol can increase the number of fat cells, which makes it increasingly more difficult to control body fat. Chronic stress, lack of sleep and elevated cortisol levels can increase abdominal fat! We did not completely understand the molecular role of cortisol in promoting obesity and weight gain until now.

Cortisol levels rise and fall over a 24-hour cycle, lowest at 3:00 a.m. and highest at 8:00 a.m. The circadian rhythm cycle is 24-hour body clock governed by when we wake up to light and start the day and exercise, and at night when getting ready to slow down and go to sleep.

If you experience chronic, continuous stress and lack of sleep at night or take glucocorticoids at night, the resulting loss of normal circadian glucocorticoid oscillation will result in significant weight gain. Yes, again— timing of your stress does matter! The results of this study show that if you get highly stressed you won’t gain weight, as long as the stress happens during the day!

On another subject, It has long been thought that avoiding eating two to three hours before going to bed, isn’t always thought to be better for long-term health and also to prevent weight gain. This recent study in the British Medical Journal showed otherwise. The scientific research has shown that a better approach to losing weight and abdominal fat is a healthy diet such as the low-carb Mediterranean diet and getting more sleep. Lack of sleep is related to unhealthy eating habits, cardiovascular risk and obesity. It also has impaired glucose metabolism, according to the BMJ study (BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health 1/2019.)

Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase weight gain. Abdominal fat is the cause of many different diseases such as insulin resistance and diabetes. The relationship between abdominal obesity was recently published in the Journal of Psychoendocrinology. It found that poor sleep quality is associated with increased visceral fat. The study also found that although you may sleep for seven hours, if it’s not good sleep, it can increase visceral abdominal fat. If you want to prevent greater abdominal and visceral fat, it’s sleep quality that is most important!


Sciencedaily recently reported, “Cardiovascular disease is a major global problem, and we are preventing and treating it using several approaches, including pharmaceuticals, physical activity and diet. But this study emphasizes we have to include sleep as one of the weapons we use to fight heart disease -- a factor we are compromising every day," said senior study author José M. Ordovás, PhD, researcher at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC) in Madrid and director of nutrition and genomics at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. "This is the first study to show that objectively measured sleep is independently associated with atherosclerosis throughout the body, not just in the heart."

“The new study included 3,974 bank employees in Spain from the PESA CNIC- Santander Study, led by JACC editor-in-chief Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, which uses imaging techniques to detect the prevalence and rate of progression of subclinical vascular lesions in a population with an average age of 46 years. All participants were without known heart disease and two-thirds were men. All participants wore an actigraph, a small device that continuously measures activity or movement, for seven days to measure their sleep. They were divided into four groups: those who slept less than six hours, those who slept six to seven hours, those who slept seven to eight hours and those who slept more than eight hours. The participants underwent 3D heart ultrasound and cardiac CT scans to look for heart disease.

The study found that when traditional risk factors for heart disease were considered, participants who slept less than six hours were 27 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis throughout the body compared with those who slept seven to eight hours. Similarly, those who had a poor quality of sleep were 34 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis compared with those who had a good quality of sleep. Quality of sleep was defined by how often a person woke during the night, and the frequency of movements during the sleep which reflect the sleep phases.”

“The new study is different from previous studies on sleep and heart health in several ways, Ordovás said. It is larger than many earlier studies and focused on a healthy population. Many previous studies have included people with sleep apnea or other health problems. While other studies have relied on questionnaires to determine how much sleep participants got, this study used actigraphs to obtain objective measures of sleep.

"What people report and what they do are often different," he said.

The study also used state-of-the-art 3D ultrasound to measure atherosclerosis throughout the body, not just in the heart.

In an editorial, Daniel J. Gottlieb, MD, MPH, and Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, from the VA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital Heart and Vascular Center said further studies are needed to determine whether changing sleep behaviors will improve heart health.

"The potentially enormous impact of sleep deprivation and disruption on population health, reinforced by the present study, is ample justification for such trials, which are needed to place sleep with confidence alongside diet and exercise as a key pillar of a healthy lifestyle," they wrote. (ScienceDaily, January 14, 2019.)

So, what can we do to lower stress and enhance sleep at night to prevent weight gain?

  1. Practice relaxation techniques. Learn how to relax! Yoga, meditation and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response. Also, read a book and get a massage. These activities can reduce your everyday stress levels and can help you sleep.
  2. Exercise during the day. Exercise relieves and lifts your mood during the day and night to promote good sleep.
  3. Eat a healthy Mediterranean diet. US News & World Report recently ranked the Mediterranean diet the best and healthiest diet for 2019. Recent research has shown that a low-carb Mediterranean diet is more effective for weight loss and abdominal fat loss than a low-fat diet. The Mediterranean diet is high in fish, vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, olive oil, mono and polyunsaturated fats and small amounts of red wine.
  4. Try to limit snacks and drinks before bed! It is important not to eat or drink anything 2-3 hours before bed for a good night’s sleep. Alcohol has been shown to disturb sleep quality. It may help you get to sleep but it doesn’t help you attain long-term sleep. Also, it will reduce the amount of times you get up to go to the bathroom.
  5. Take a sauna bath or hot tub (i.e., Jacuzzi™). Heat therapy is a great way to relieve stress. It increases vasodilation, blood flow and relaxation which can enhance sleep.
  6. Turn off the TV. Watching TV before bed or worse, falling asleep to the TV, interferes with sleep. The blue light from TV can affect sleep and production of melatonin, which tells your body it’s time for sleep. Also, avoid tablets and smartphones before sleep. Research has found that mobile devices, tablets, backlit e-readers and computer screens emit blue light and disturbs melatonin and biochemical processes that promote sleep.
  7. Listen to classical music. Recent research has shown the powers of soothing music to lower stress. Especially slow, quiet classical music! This type of music slows pulse and heart rate and decreases stress hormones to enhance sleep and relaxation.
  8. Have more sex. Sexual activity, especially orgasm, triggers the release of oxytocin, which promotes bonding and helps relieve stress. Science suggests sex can improve mood and combat anxiety by reducing stress and to get more quality sleep.
  9. Get more quality sleep! Recent research has shown that nighttime owls have higher risk of dying sooner. Sleep problems disrupt metabolic and hormonal control systems that regulate bodyweight. This has resulted in poor blood sugar control, insulin resistance and stress-related increase in cortisol. CT scans have shown that short sleep duration increases abdominal fat, total body fat and surface fat. Many studies link inadequate sleep to obesity.
  10. Take Advanced Molecular Labs™ (AML) ThermoHeat Nighttime Fat Burner. It boosts metabolism, helps manage stress and appetite. It also promotes relaxation and sleep. A good night’s sleep is a requirement for the maintenance of proper body weight. ThermoHeat Nighttime contains a thermogenic blend of spices combined with a mixture of anti-stress, relaxation and sleep-inducing agents: melatonin, L-Theanine, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and gama-aminobutyric acid (GABA). AML ThermoHeat Nighttime maintains an elevated evel of thermogenic fat burning throughout the night while at the same time, reducing stress and promoting sleep. AML ThermoHeat Nighttime Fat Burner is scientifically formulated based on the latest scientific research.



Effect of a 2-hour interval between dinner and bedtime on glycated haemoglobin levels in middle-aged and elderly Japanese people: a longitudinal analysis of 3-year health check-up data. Maw SS, Haga C. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health 2019;bmjnph-2018-000011. doi: 10.1136/bmjnph-2018-000011

Sleep quality is differentially related to adiposity in adults. S. Katherine Sweatta, Barbara A.Gower, Angela Y.Chieha, YangLiuaLiLia Psychoneuroendocrinology Volume 98, December 2018, Pages 46-51

Fernando Domínguez, Valentín Fuster, Juan Miguel Fernández-Alvira, Leticia Fernández-Friera, Beatriz López-Melgar, Ruth Blanco-Rojo, Antonio Fernández-Ortiz, Pablo García-Pavía, Javier Sanz, José M. Mendiguren, Borja Ibañez, Héctor Bueno, Enrique Lara-Pezzi, José M. Ordovás. Association of Sleep Duration and Quality With Subclinical Atherosclerosis. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2019; 73 (2): 134 DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.10.060

American College of Cardiology. "Sleeping less than six hours a night may increase cardiovascular risk." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 January 2019.

European Society of Cardiology. "Sleeping five hours or less a night associated with doubled risk of cardiovascular disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 August 2018. <>