University of South Florida

Sleep loss may harm your health – especially when combined with a high-fat diet

Tossing and turning all night is enough to make you feel tired and cranky the next day – but USF Health researchers say sleep deprivation creates additional problems for your gut, immune, and heart health. Especially when combined with a high-fat diet, lack of sleep may trigger low-grade chronic inflammation that could lead to heart disease.

How’s that for a worry to keep you up at night?

In a new paper published in April in The FASEB Journal, the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. a team of USF Health researchers address not only the relationship between diet and sleep, but the effect on the body’s defense system, including immune health and the microbiome.

The microbiome is made up of the bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms in the gut. Scientists are just beginning to realize that the makeup of the microbiome – whether it contains “good” or “bad” bacteria and other organisms – is greatly influenced by diet and has far broader impacts on human health than previously realized.

“The combination of a high-fat diet and sleep deprivation messes up the immune system,’’ said Ganesh Halade, Ph.D., lead author of the paper and an associate professor at the USF Health Heart Institute. “And when we review the status of the microbiome, then we have a better understanding of the root cause of chronic inflammation that can fuel cardiac failure.’’

Dr. Ganesh Halade

Researchers also studied the lipidome, which is the fats, oils, and their molecules inside the body.

It is well-known that a lipid-dense diet can lead to weight gain and low-grade chronic inflammation. But sleep also is key, being fundamental to heart health and fitness of the immune system. Because more and more people with “sleep fragmentation’’ are facing cardiovascular and cardiometabolic issues including obesity and diabetes, their condition has become a serious medical issue, the researchers report.

“Diet, sleep, and exercise – It’s all related, fundamental, and integrative,’’ Dr. Halade said. “If diet and sleep aren’t in balance, then you invite the array of diseases.  Low-grade chronic inflammation is a by product of imbalanced lifestyle. We know a lot about eating habits, but the real question we need to know more about is the interaction of sleep with diet and effect on immune and heart health.’’

This question has become increasingly important, given that the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home and long hours in front of computer screens have changed the way millions of people sleep. This has led to “a metabolic public health problem’’ due to the disruption of circadian cycles.

Heart disease has been the No. 1 cause of death in the United States every year since 1950.

Other USF Health researchers who worked on this study were: Yusuf Mat, MD, biological scientist; Shalini Jain, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair; Hariom Yadav, PhD, associate professor, Internal Medicine and Neurosurgery and director of the USF Center for Microbiome Research; and Vasundhara Kain, PhD, senior researcher.

In their study, the researchers used male mice in randomized groups, with one group consuming a fat-rich diet and experiencing interrupted sleep patterns. Researchers measured the microbiome and lipidome in obese, sleep-deprived mice and analyzed gut germs and lipids. To determine the importance of sleep in the context of obesity, mice ate types of fat present in ultra-processed food products and then stayed awake before experiencing cardiac episodes.

Previous reports from Dr. Halade’s lab confirmed that omega-3 fats (fish oil-derived molecules) helped repair the heart in healthy mice after heart attack injuries, with the immune cells of the spleen, molecules called resolution mediators, making the repairs.  However, production of these molecules failed in the spleens of obese and sleep-deprived mice, and heart repair thus failed.  Furthermore, the researchers noted, omega-6 fats present in processed and packaged food products deplete omega-3 fatty acids in plasma and the heart, which causes low-grade chronic inflammation.

Dr. Halade and the team concluded that obesity and poor sleep patterns can lead to immune suppression and limits the body’s ability to repair a heart under stress or injury because prolonged chronic inflammation interferes with immune host defenses.

Dr. Halade is a cardiovascular research scientist working to better understand how inflammation and immune responsive metabolic dysregulation contributes to ischemic and non-ischemic heart failure. At the USF Health Heart Institute, he collaborates with other researchers, including Drs. Siddabasave Gowda B. Gowda and Shu-Ping Hui from Hokkaido University in Japan, on therapies and potential cures for people with heart problems.

— Story by Kurt Loft for USF Health News 



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