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Teens who don’t sleep enough would consume 2 kg of extra sugar in a school year


Due to their staggered secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and their schooling which forces them to get up early, adolescents are often sleep deprived. This is not without consequence on their attention span, their learning, but also their diet.

In a new study, published on December 17, 2021 in the journal sleeping (Source 1), researchers have observed that the loss of sleep caused by going to bed late caused teenagers to eat more carbohydrates (sugars), and caused a higher than normal glycemic load.

“Shorter sleep (around 6.5 hours per night, editor’s note) increases the risk for adolescents of eating more carbohydrates and added sugars and drinking more sugary drinks than when they get enough sleep (around 9. 5h per night) ”, commented Dr. Kara Duraccio, professor of clinical and developmental psychology at Brigham Young University (USA) and lead author of the study, in a press release (Source 2).

The study analyzed the sleeping and eating habits of some 93 teenagers. The researchers measured the calorie intake, macronutrient content, types of food eaten, and glycemic load of the foods eaten by the participants.

12 grams more sugar every day, more than 2 kg at the end of the year

The results showed that adolescents who slept little (6.5h/night for a week) ate more foods likely to increase their blood sugar, in other words foods with a high glycemic index, than when they slept more (9.5h/night for a week). That is the equivalent of 12 grams more sugar per day. Since most teens don’t get enough sleep for the 180 nights in a school year, an extra 12 grams of sugar per day could lead to more than 2 kg of extra sugar per year, the researchers detail.

Teenagers sleeping little also ate less fruit and vegetables when they slept little.

“Interestingly, sleeping less did not cause teens to eat more than their peers with healthy sleep; both groups consumed roughly the same amounts of calories from food. But sleeping less caused teenagers to eat more junk food”, said Dr. Duraccio. “We suspect tired teens crave quick bursts of energy to keep them [en éveil] until they can go to bed, so they look for foods high in carbohydrates and added sugars”, added the researcher. In this sense, she believes that the problem of lack of sleep in children and adolescents should be integrated into the modules for the prevention and fight against childhood obesity.

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