Races Differ in Rates of Sleep-Related Obesity

African Americans have a 35 percent greater risk of developing obesity as a result of lack of sleep than whites, according to new research from SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

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In the mad dash that is life in our modern world, many Americans neglect to take proper care of their health. In general, most Americans eat too much, choose the wrong foods, and don’t get enough exercise – yet we wonder why we feel so lousy.

To top it all off, the majority of Americans fail to get enough sleep. And a new study says that neglecting this aspect of our lives may be making us fat – or worse.

Research has shown a statistical correlation between people who sleep for less than seven hours a night and an increased risk for obesity. But did you know that black people are at more risk of not getting enough sleep than Americans from other ethnic and racial groups?

That’s the conclusion reached by researcher and study author Dr. Girardin Jean-Louis, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center.

In a paper presented at SLEEP 2009, the largest gathering of sleep specialists in the nation, Dr. Jean-Louis revealed that black Americans have a greater prevalence of short sleep and a greater prevalence of obesity compared to white Americans.

In his recent study of short sleep duration and obesity, Dr. Girardin Jean-Louis and his fellow researchers analyzed national data from some 30,000 adults ages 18 to 85. They found disparities in the frequency of obesity, which affects 52 percent of blacks and 38 percent of whites; and short sleep duration, which affects 12 percent of blacks and 8 percent of whites.

After integrating the data, the researchers concluded that blacks have a 35 percent greater risk of developing obesity as a result of lack of sleep than do whites.

As always: correlation is not causation, and the study does not prove that black people are suffering high rates of obesity solely as a result of reduced sleep time. A relationship between the frequency of obesity in blacks and lack of sleep does exist, however, and researchers cite the need for further study of the effects of chronic lack of sleep on obesity.

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