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Sleep and diet have different outcomes among the sexes

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Sleep plays a role in mortality

Researchers from Monash University, the National Defense Medical Centre, Taiwan, and the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, examined dietary contributors to relationships between sleep and all-cause mortality among elderly men and women.

This prospective cohort study included 1,865 adults (942 men and 923 women) aged 65 years and older from the Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan (NAHSIT) for elders during 1999–2000.

Dietary diversity scores (DDS) were from 24-hour dietary recalls. Participants were examined and fasting blood was taken. Sleep quality was assessed by questionnaire and classified as poor, fair, or good. Death registry linkage was made until December 31, 2008.

The results showed women were almost twice as likely to have poor quality sleep and women who were poor sleepers had significantly lower vegetable and vitamin B-6 intakes compared to good sleepers. Fair sleepers had lower iron intakes than good sleepers.

Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist, MD, PhD, from Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and the Monash Asia Institute commented “Sufficient dietary diversity in men could offset the adverse effect on mortality of poor sleep while women need to make sure they are eating foods high in vitamin B6.”

According to Professor Walhqvist “poor sleep has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.”

“We found that for both genders, poor sleep was strongly correlated with poor appetite and poor perceived health.”

In their conclusion the researchers write” “There was significant interaction between sleep quality and dietary diversity. For men, poor sleep was not associated with a greater risk of death unless there was also insufficient dietary diversity. For women, good sleep only provide a survival advantage if they had a diverse diet.”

Professor Wahlqvist noted that people who did not sleep well were also less able to chew, had poor appetites, and did less physical activity.

These characteristics could contribute to lower overall dietary quality and food and nutrient intake, especially for vegetables, protein-rich foods, and vitamin B-6,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

“They may also contribute to the risk of death, either in their own right or together with problematic sleep. Intervention focusing on education on healthy dietary practices in elderly people could improve sleep duration and provide more stable levels of health.”

This study is published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

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