HealthDay: Sleep deprivation can lead to a spike in visceral fat, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

A small new study found that the basic problem sources back to the fact that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat more. Even worse, all those extra calories wind up precisely where most people don’t want it: around the belly.

“Our work focused on people who chose to sleep less,” explained study author Dr. Virend Somers, a professor of cardiovascular medicine with the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn. “It wasn’t about insomnia, so much as, say, a student in college who decides they find it necessary to sleep less for a while in order to get their work done.

“But what we found is that when a relatively young, healthy and lean person is sleep-deprived and has unrestricted access to food, he or she eats 300 more calories per day,” said Somers.

That extra food did not appear to lead to enormous weight gains, the researchers acknowledged. Yet, it did appear to translate into a “stunning” 11% increase in so-called “visceral fat,” Somers said.

“That’s the fat that wraps around the belly and the internal organs,” he noted. “The fat which you really can’t see. But it’s actually the most dangerous fat.”

That, said Somers, is because deeply deposited visceral fat “produces all kind of toxic things that cause heart and blood vessel disease,” including high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol — all of which can notably elevate the risk for developing diabetes.

Somers and his colleagues reported their findings in the April 5 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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