Thursday, May 14, 2020

Carbohydrate Quality And Insomnia

The Study
The relationship between diet and sleep is an area of increasing interest in nutrition research. In this recent study, the impact of carbohydrate quality on risk of incident insomnia was examined in over 50,000 subjects from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. After 3 years of follow-up, women with the highest dietary glycemic index had a statistically significant 16% higher risk of insomnia when compared to women with the lowest glycemic index. Added sugar and refined grain consumption were each independently associated with insomnia while fruits and vegetables were associated with a reduced risk of insomnia. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2020; 111:429-39.  

Take Home Message
This is a really interesting study. We all know how important sleep is for our physical and mental health. The idea that what we eat influences how we sleep is not new. However, this is the first study that I have seen that links high glycemic carbs to insomnia. Here is what the researchers think happens: You eat a high glycemic carbohydrate and your blood sugar spikes. Your body releases the counterregulatory hormones adrenaline, cortisol, glucagon and growth hormone to bring your blood sugar back up. Side effects of the counterregulatory hormones released include heart palpitations, tremor, anxiety, irritability and hunger. These can keep you up at night.

This makes a lot of sense and is yet another reason to avoid carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar. Limit high glycemic carbs like bread, pasta, white rice and sugar and focus on low glycemic carbs like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

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