Even Your Fat Cells Need Sleep, According to New Research: Page 3 of 3

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October 23, 2012

from the University of Chicago Kovler Diabetes Center, David Ehrmann, MD, and Brady, who studies how insulin regulates energy storage in fat and liver cells. 

They focused on fat cells because of their direct links to metabolic disruption and weight gain. These cells store energy for the body, are exquisitely sensitive to insulin and help regulate appetite. 

Witnessing the direct effect of sleep deprivation on a peripheral tissue such as fat at the cellular level "was an eye-opener," Broussard said. It helps cement the link between sleep and diabetes and "suggests that we could use sleep like diet and exercise to prevent or treat this common disease."

Brady said the study opens up many new questions. 

"What signals from sleep loss affect the fat cell? What effect does dysfunctional fat have at the whole-body level?" Brady wondered. "And if we can deprive healthy people of sleep and make them worse, can we take sick people, such as those with the common combination of sleep apnea, obesity and diabetes, improve their sleep and make them better? That's the missing link in the sleep-obesity-diabetes connection."

This study is "a valuable contribution to the understanding of the causal pathways by which reduced sleep duration may directly contribute to diabetes and obesity," according to an editorial in the journal by Francesco Cappuccio, MD, DSc, and Michelle Miller, PhD, of the University of Warwick, in Coventry, United Kingdom. "These results point to a much wider influence of sleep on bodily functions, including metabolism, adipose tissue, cardiovascular function, and possibly more."

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The paper, "Impaired Insulin Signaling in Human Adipocyes," appears in the Oct. 16, 2012, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine . Funding for this work was provided by the National Institutes of Health and Society in Science – The Branco Weiss Fellowship.