Research Shows Metabolism During Sleep Cycles May Link to Obesity Risk

This article will introduce you to the new findings in sleep research that prove there's a link between sleep cycles and health risks.
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Last updatedLast updated: November 20, 2021
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Sleeping is generally a time of rest, but for some physiological processes, it’s a time for work. A recent student was conducted to measure the respiratory quotient of a group of healthy individuals, and the findings were very informative. So, what exactly is a respiratory quotient, and what did this particular study find? Read on to learn more about the surprising discoveries about metabolism and sleep cycles.

How is RQ Related to Metabolism?

Your respiratory quotient (RQ) Trusted Source Physiology, Respiratory Quotient - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf Respiration is the process by which the respiratory substrate is broken down to release energy. The two main operating factors of cell respiration are aerobic and anaerobic respiration, where aerobic respiration requires the presence of oxygen and anaerobic respiration does not. The most common respiratory substrate is glucose, which has a 6-carbon compound. The substrate is metabolized through glycolysis, TCA cycle, electron transport chain, and oxidative phosphorylation. Through these cycles, cells are able to produce and store ATP, and carbon dioxide is produced as a by-product. It is important to understand the levels of carbon dioxide produced from different substrates because toxic levels can be destructive to the body. Healthcare professionals can recommend that a patient alter his or her diet, particularly for those with pulmonary and liver conditions, to increase the release of CO2 and avoid respiratory fatigue and utilize it as a prognostic factor, respectively. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov refers to the volume of carbon dioxide released from your body over the volume of oxygen absorbed during respiratory processes. Metabolism Trusted Source Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories - Mayo Clinic Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function. www.mayoclinic.org , on the other hand, is the process of converting the food and drinks you consume into energy for your body to function.

A person’s RQ will monitor how their body uses the three sources of energy required to function: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. If a person’s RQ numbers are equal, then the person is using more carbohydrates than they are protein or fats.

If RQ numbers remain at a lower number, it’s likely a person consumes more fat than the other two energy sources. However, if RQ levels vary throughout the day, it’s generally because a person metabolizes fats and carbohydrates differently throughout the day.

Sleep Study Finding

Researchers at the University of Tsukuba Trusted Source Metabolic flexibility during sleep | Scientific Reports Known as metabolic flexibility, oxidized substrate is selected in response to changes in the nutritional state. Sleep imposes an extended duration of fasting, and oxidized substrates during sleep were assumed to progressively shift from carbohydrate to fat, thereby gradually decreasing the respiratory quotient (RQ). Contrary to this assumption, whole-room indirect calorimetry with improved time resolution revealed that RQ re-ascended prior to awakening, and nadir of RQ in non-obese young adults occurred earlier in women than men after bedtime. The transient decrease in RQ during sleep was blunted in metabolically inflexible men with smaller amplitude of diurnal rhythm in RQ. Similarly, the effect of 10 years difference in age on RQ became significant during sleep; the decrease in RQ during sleep was blunted in older subjects. Inter-individual difference in RQ become apparent during sleep, and it might serve as a window to gain insight into the early-stage pathogenesis of metabolic inflexibility. www.nature.com conducted a study of 127 healthy individuals and their RQ throughout their sleep and wake times. The study showed what a person’s metabolism flexibility was and how it may be able to help assess their risk levels for metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity. Each test subject was monitored for a 24-hour time period.

While it may be more common to think a person’s RQ would decrease and remain low throughout the entirety of their sleep cycle, this study found this to not be the case. Rather than remaining consistently low, findings indicated a person’s RQ decreased at first sleep and then rose throughout the night.

The researchers also wanted to see how a person’s RQ would vary between people. To measure this, the subjects were divided into two metabolic groups: flexible and inflexible. They found that the average RQ between both groups was roughly the same. However, the flexible metabolism group had varied RQ values throughout the night and were also lower than the other groups.

What is Metabolic Flexibility?

Metabolic flexibility Trusted Source Metabolic flexibility in health and disease Metabolic flexibility is the ability to respond or adapt to conditional changes in metabolic demand. This broad concept has been propagated to explain insulin resistance and mechanisms governing fuel selection between glucose and fatty acids, highlighting the metabolic inflexibility of obesity and type 2 diabetes. In parallel, contemporary exercise physiology research has helped to identify potential mechanisms underlying altered fuel metabolism in obesity and diabetes. Advances in ‘omics’ technologies have further stimulated additional basic and clinical-translational research to further interrogate mechanisms for improved metabolic flexibility in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue with the goal to prevent and treat metabolic disease. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov is your ability to respond to metabolic changes and energy demands in relation to your preexisting conditions and regular physical activity. To put it simply, the flexibility of your metabolism determines how easily your body can adapt to physiological changes and still function properly.

Are You High Risk?

If you have an inflexible metabolism, you may be at a higher risk for metabolic diseases than if you had a flexible metabolism. However, it’s worth noting that your RQ value doesn’t actually predict whether or not you’ll develop diabetes or obesity.

To determine whether or not you’re high risk, consider figuring out your RQ value. Knowing what your RQ numbers are will not only help you determine your metabolic flexibility but will also show you which energy sources you may be deficient in or have too much of.

What to Do if Your Metabolism is Inflexible

If you find out your metabolism is inflexible, you can take preventative measures to ensure you don’t develop any metabolic health issues. Maintaining a healthy diet and a regular physical routine are the best preventative measures to take.

Most people who have a slow or inflexible metabolism limit their carbohydrate intake and try to stay away from processed sugars, and reduce the levels of glucose and insulin in their blood. On top of this, it’s recommended to keep track of your sleep patterns and try to improve where there are deficiencies.

References

1.
Physiology, Respiratory Quotient - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf
Respiration is the process by which the respiratory substrate is broken down to release energy. The two main operating factors of cell respiration are aerobic and anaerobic respiration, where aerobic respiration requires the presence of oxygen and anaerobic respiration does not. The most common respiratory substrate is glucose, which has a 6-carbon compound. The substrate is metabolized through glycolysis, TCA cycle, electron transport chain, and oxidative phosphorylation. Through these cycles, cells are able to produce and store ATP, and carbon dioxide is produced as a by-product. It is important to understand the levels of carbon dioxide produced from different substrates because toxic levels can be destructive to the body. Healthcare professionals can recommend that a patient alter his or her diet, particularly for those with pulmonary and liver conditions, to increase the release of CO2 and avoid respiratory fatigue and utilize it as a prognostic factor, respectively.
2.
Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories - Mayo Clinic
Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.
3.
Metabolic flexibility during sleep | Scientific Reports
Known as metabolic flexibility, oxidized substrate is selected in response to changes in the nutritional state. Sleep imposes an extended duration of fasting, and oxidized substrates during sleep were assumed to progressively shift from carbohydrate to fat, thereby gradually decreasing the respiratory quotient (RQ). Contrary to this assumption, whole-room indirect calorimetry with improved time resolution revealed that RQ re-ascended prior to awakening, and nadir of RQ in non-obese young adults occurred earlier in women than men after bedtime. The transient decrease in RQ during sleep was blunted in metabolically inflexible men with smaller amplitude of diurnal rhythm in RQ. Similarly, the effect of 10 years difference in age on RQ became significant during sleep; the decrease in RQ during sleep was blunted in older subjects. Inter-individual difference in RQ become apparent during sleep, and it might serve as a window to gain insight into the early-stage pathogenesis of metabolic inflexibility.
4.
Metabolic flexibility in health and disease
Metabolic flexibility is the ability to respond or adapt to conditional changes in metabolic demand. This broad concept has been propagated to explain insulin resistance and mechanisms governing fuel selection between glucose and fatty acids, highlighting the metabolic inflexibility of obesity and type 2 diabetes. In parallel, contemporary exercise physiology research has helped to identify potential mechanisms underlying altered fuel metabolism in obesity and diabetes. Advances in ‘omics’ technologies have further stimulated additional basic and clinical-translational research to further interrogate mechanisms for improved metabolic flexibility in skeletal muscle and adipose tissue with the goal to prevent and treat metabolic disease.
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