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The amount one snacks appears to be related to the amount of sleep one gets. That is the finding of University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, as summarized by the Pulse wire report.

In general, less sleeping may lead to more snacking. The study was conducted at the sleep research laboratory of the University of Chicago and was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers compared subjects who slept 8.5 hours per night with subjects who slept just 5.5 hours per night. Those who slept less took in, on the average, 220 more calories the following day.

Two particularly interesting results of this study apply to the lower-sleep, higher-calorie participants:
The additional calories they consumed came from extra snacking, which was undertaken mainly at night and which consisted mostly of carbohydrates; and
Their longer period of being awake was not characterized by being more active.
Persons interested in weight control or body fat reduction are well advised to take stock of their sleeping habits. Trimming off a significant number of unneeded calories on a regular basis could be as simple as getting more sleep every night.

If you follow a high-calorie Western diet (rich in fats and junk foods), adding nuts will only make matters worse. However, eating a handful of nuts in place of undesirable snack foods, such as chips, is highly recommended.

The information above stems from work completed by Spanish scientists, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and widely disseminated by the Associated Press. The researchers found that adding nuts to a Mediterranean diet lowered heart risks more than increasing the olive oil in a Mediterranean diet, although both of those approaches were more effective than simply following a low-fat diet. The participants in the study who snacked on nuts did not usually lose weight, but often underwent reductions of belly fat while also improving their blood pressure levels and cholesterol profiles.

Regarding those participants who saw the greatest health gains, exactly what combination of nuts had the researchers advised them to snack on? About three whole walnuts, seven or eight whole almonds, and seven or eight whole hazelnuts.

Aging, Depression, and Visceral Fat:

Visceral fat is a dangerous type of internal body fat that surrounds, or accumulates around, internal organs. Often presenting as the "belly fat" to which the preceding article referred, visceral fat increases the risk for both heart disease and diabetes.

Now, in a rather disconcerting study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, scientists at Wake Forest University's Sticht Center on Aging have reported that septuagenarians who are depressed are twice as likely to gain visceral fat, compared to their counterparts who are not depressed.

This link appears to be more complex than one for which obesity could account. Instead, there may be a biological connection between visceral fat and an individual's mental state. Some researchers postulate that depression spurs excessive levels of cortisol, a stress hormone known to contribute toward the development of visceral fat.

For older adults, family caregivers, and professionals who serve aging clients, this study reinforces a crucial message: Do not ignore, overlook, or downplay the importance of symptoms of depression. Qualified medical treatment should be sought -- not only to improve personal quality of life, but also to discourage the onset of heart disease and diabetes.

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