Chronic insomnia is associated with the consumption of ultra-processed foods

The data showed a slightly stronger association in men

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Illustration, Photo: Shutterstock
Illustration, Photo: Shutterstock
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Ultra-processed foods have been linked to health problems such as heart disease and diabetes, and a new study suggests they may also contribute to chronic insomnia in some people.

These can be any foods that have been modified to improve their taste, or to make them last longer. They are in contrast to foods such as fruits or vegetables, which generally come as they are, writes Science alert, as reported by N1.

Researchers led by a team from Sorbonne University Paris Nord in France looked at data collected on 38.570 adults as part of the NutriNet-Sante research project, mapping nutritional information against sleep variables.

"At a time when more and more food is ultra-processed and sleep disorders are more prevalent, it is important to assess whether diet can contribute to poor sleep," says Marie-Pierre St-Onge, a nutrition and sleep scientist at Columbia University in the US. .

St-Onge and her colleagues found a statistically significant association between higher morning consumption of processed foods and an increased risk of chronic insomnia, after lifestyle, diet quality, and mental health factors were taken into account.

Overall, the study participants obtained 16 percent of their daily energy from this type of food, while 19,4 percent of the cohort reported symptoms of chronic insomnia, and this group had a higher daily intake of this type of food.

The data also showed a slightly stronger association in men.

The study only assessed single time points and relied on self-report, but the large number of people involved suggests that this is a link worthy of future investigation.

"It is important to note that our analyzes were observational in nature, and we did not assess longitudinal association," says epidemiologist Pauline Dukun from the Sorbonne University Paris Nord.

She adds that, "although the data do not establish causality, this study is the first of its kind and adds to the existing body of knowledge about ultra-processed foods."

Considering the previous research they've seen, and the well-established links between diet and sleep, it's perhaps not surprising that ultra-processed foods can have an impact on our bodies in terms of the risk of chronic insomnia.

Some of the same researchers previously found an association between a Mediterranean diet and a lower risk of insomnia, so this new study appears to represent the other side of that relationship.

It is still not clear why this connection might exist. Linking ultra-processed foods to weight gain is easier, due to their high calorie content, but further research will be needed to understand how these foods can keep us up at night.

"In the future, prospective epidemiologic as well as clinical and experimental studies could advance knowledge of causality and mediating pathways," the researchers write in their published paper.

The research was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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