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New Study Suggests that “Social Jet Lag” is Responsible for Worsening Obesity Epidemic


Researchers at the University of Munich have determined that “social jet lag”, a condition in which there is a lack of synchronicity between our body’s biological clock and our sleep schedules, is responsible for exacerbating the obesity epidemic.

Our biological or internal clock is regulated by a number of factors including hours of daylight, and encourages sleep during the optimal period for resting – at night when it is dark. However, this biological clock is frequently upset creating a situation similar to that experienced by individuals who fly through different time zones.

For example, many people stay up later on a Friday night when they know that they won’t have to get up to go to work the next morning. On Monday morning, this situation is reversed when it is necessary to get up early, often by using an alarm clock because one’s body is still tired according to our internal clock. Researchers have coined the term “social jet lag” because the effect is similar to flying from New York to Paris and back, over the weekend.

The study which is published in the May 10th issue of Current Biology involved analysing data collected over a period of 10 years on the weight, height, and sleeping patterns of 65,000 people. The researchers discovered that individuals with the most severe cases of “social jet lag” were at greatest risk of becoming obese

From a statistical perspective, every hour of “social jet lag” experienced by a person increases their likelihood of being overweight or obese by 33 percent. The researchers also noticed that individuals who encounter “social jet lag” on a regular basis are more likely to adopt unhealthy lifestyle habits such as alcohol and caffeine consumption or smoking.

While previous studies have shown that shift workers are at a higher risk for diabetes and obesity, this study draws attention to the fact that even small changes in a person’s sleep habits may be linked to obesity.

Source: CBS News

Photo: Dmytro Tchystiak. Wikimedia Commons. No endorsement implied.