Sep 22, 2022
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Night owls have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease

Scientists have proven that the habit of going to bed early or, conversely, late can affect our health. So, owls have a reduced ability to use fat for energy, which means that these same fats can accumulate in their bodies, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA, divided study participants into two groups based on their “chronotype” — a natural tendency to seek out activity and sleep at different times. The scientists used advanced imaging to assess body weight and composition, as well as insulin sensitivity and breath patterns to measure fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Fifty participants were observed during the week, assessing the nature of their activity during the day. Owls and larks controlled calories and did not eat anything at night to minimize the effect of nutrition on the results.

Scientists have concluded that sleep-wake cycles cause metabolic differences and change our body’s preference for energy sources. Larks use more fat for energy both at rest and during exercise than do owls. Larks were also more sensitive to insulin.

Owls, on the other hand, are more insulin resistant, meaning their bodies require more insulin to lower their blood glucose levels, and their bodies prefer carbohydrates as an energy source rather than fats. Impairment of this group’s ability to respond to insulin can be harmful as it indicates an increased risk type 2 diabetes and or heart disease. The reason for this shift in metabolic preferences between larks and owls is not yet known and requires further study.

Senior author Prof Steven Malin of Rutgers University said: “The difference in fat metabolism between larks and owls shows that the circadian rhythm (wake/sleep cycle) can influence how our bodies use insulin. Ability to respond to a hormone insulin is of great importance for our health».

Scientists also found that early bird are more physically active and have a higher level of fitness than night owls, who lead a sedentary lifestyle during the day.

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