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Sleep & Diabetes Risk

iStock-1448461961JAMA Network Open recently published the results of a large cohort study that assessed the influence of sleep duration on diabetes type 2 risk, as well as any potential modification of that risk by dietary habits. A previous meta-analysis published in Diabetes Care reported that 7-8 hours of sleep is associated with the lowest risk for developing diabetes, and the risk increases by approximately 9% for every hour less than 7 per night. However, data from the large UK Biobank prospective cohort suggest that the increase in diabetes risk associated with insufficient sleep may be mitigated with physical activity, perhaps completely, if the volume is sufficient.

This most recent study also utilized the UK Biobank data with the goal of determining whether healthy dietary habits might have a similar protective effect in the face of insufficient sleep. Comprised of nearly 250,000 participants with a mean age of 55.9 who were followed for a median of 12.5 years, people reporting sleep of less than 6 hours per night had an elevated risk for type 2 diabetes, 16% higher for those with 5 hours per night, and 41% higher for 3-4 hours (adjusted). Additionally, for <6 hours sleep per night, a healthy diet (defined as lower red and processed meat, and greater fruit, vegetable, and fish intake) was associated with a lower risk for diabetes. However, a healthier diet could not entirely mitigate the harm of insufficient sleep, and there was no additive interaction between diet and sleep.

There are certainly limitations to this study; for example, it did not assess sugar or processed food intake as part of the diet score, and all diet and sleep data was self-reported. Yet it emphasizes the importance of sufficient sleep and the importance of diet in reducing (but not eliminating) the excess diabetes risk associated with low sleep duration.

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