Short Sleep Duration Is Associated With Eating More Carbohydrates and Less Dietary Fat in Mexican American Children

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Study Objective:

Short sleep duration is a risk factor for childhood obesity. Mechanisms are unclear, but may involve selection of high carbohydrate foods. This study examined the association between estimated sleep duration and macronutrient intake as percentages of total energy among Mexican American (MA) 9-11 year olds.


This cross-sectional study measured diet using two 24-hour recalls and estimated sleep duration using hip-worn accelerometry in MA children (n = 247) who were part of a cohort study. Child and maternal anthropometry were obtained; mothers reported on demographic information. Using linear regression, we examined the relationship of sleep duration with energy intake, sugar intake, and the percentage of energy intake from carbohydrates, fat, and protein.


Children were 47% male; mean age was 10 (SD = 0.9) years. Mean sleep duration was 9.6 (SD = 0.8) hours; 53% were overweight/obese, with a mean energy intake of 1759 (SD = 514) calories. Longer sleep duration was independently associated with a lower percentage of energy intake from carbohydrates (β = −0.22, p < .01) and a higher percentage of energy from fat (β = 0.19, p < .01), driven by the percentage of energy from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA; β = 0.17, p < .05). No association was found with the intake of energy or total sugars, or the percent of calories from protein.


MA children who slept longer consumed diets with a lower percentage of calories from carbohydrates and a higher percentage from fat, especially from PUFA. Short sleep duration may be a risk factor for food cravings that are high in carbohydrate content and may displace heart-healthy dietary fat, and thereby increase obesity risk among children.

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