High fat diets cause weight gain and snoring – resulting in obstructive sleep apnoea and heart problems

Recent research conducted as totally separate studies in both Australia and the USA throws new light on the relationship between sleep and weight gain. Experts suggest sufficient undisturbed slumber every night is required to life a healthy life and snoring is a key factor that needs to be eliminated.

High fat diets cause weight gain and snoring – resulting in obstructive sleep apnoea and heart problems

The first report, from the University of Adelaide, tracked 1,800 Australian men aged between 35 to 80 and looked at their eating habits during a one year period. It concluded that men who consumed the highest amounts of fat were more likely to experience ‘excessive daytime sleepiness’ and that a high-fat content to a diet was strongly linked to sleep apnoea.

The data was taken from a larger study into Australian lifestyles called the Men Androgen Inflammation Lifestyle Environment and Stress (MAILES) study.

Data extracted from this, with a focus on diet and sleep apnoea has found a strong correlation between higher fat content and sleep disorders.

The scope of the study included 1,800 Australian men who were aged between 35-80 years. The men were surveyed over a 12-month period and they recorded information about what they eat, when they felt sleepy and the quality and quantity of sleep they achieved each night. A high fat diet was linked to sleep apnoea and even more interestingly, the sleepiness was not linked to a person’s obesity – meaning smaller males were just as affected as larger-sized ones.

Almost half – 47% – with a high fat diet said they slept poorly at night and 42% admitted feeling lethargic and tired during the day. Meanwhile 54% suffered ‘mild-to-moderate’ sleep apnoea and 25% categorised as having ‘moderate-to-severe’ sleep apnoea. None of the men had previously been diagnosed with the condition.

The data was adjusted for the age groups and for lifestyle factors and note was also taken of any chronic diseases that the men were suffering from. With these factors accounted for, the results remained unchanged.

Comments from the participants suggested many of the men were locked into a vicious circle. Because they felt tired during the day they tended towards a high fat diet; and because they eat a high fat diet they were more likely to feel sleepy during the day. It’s long been suspected that a diet rich in carbohydrates and fat can adversely affect sleeping patterns and has significant implications for alertness and concentration, which would be of particular concern to workers.

Separate reports from the Universities of Delaware and Columbia in the USA independently supported this, and said that in a simpler study, one of them using nearly half a million individuals, that there’s a clear link between insufficient or disturbed sleep and obesity.

But getting fat is not the only problem caused by poor sleeping habits. Other research said that not getting enough sleep affects the cholesterol level. Thus there’s a link between heart diseases and lack of sleep. It has become evident that poor or lack of sleep may lead to a slowing of the metabolism and is linked to getting fat and worse – even causing obesity – and is also linked to cardiovascular diseases.

According to The European Society of Cardiology “Sleep disorders are very closely related to the presence of cardiovascular diseases. However, until now there has not been a major population based study examining the impact of sleep disorders on the development of a heart attack or stroke.”

Leading UK nutritionist and neuroscientist Victoria Wills has welcomed the news, saying it could even help save countless lives.

She said: “We’ve all experienced that feeling of eating a large, unhealthy meal and then being completely zapped of energy. Now this study shows that a long-term diet of fatty foods can have a fatiguing effect on your day-to-day life, even bringing about sleep apnoea – a common cause of night terrors – which is worrying in the extreme”.

“If you are eating too much fat then you may not be physically able to exercise properly because you haven’t been able to rest properly and your energy levels are depleted. It’s then a vicious circle. Meanwhile those who work in jobs where it’s vital that they stay alert and awake should also take note, or risk accidentally day-dreaming into a serious accident.”

You should improve your sleep initially by stopping snoring while you work on the lengthy task of reducing the fat from your diet to lower your weight.

John Redfern