Nighttime Food Obsessions? Blame Your Brain

Nighttime food cravings? It turns out that there may be a biological reason for them.

Photo by: Pamela A. Moore ©2014PamelaMoore/fstop123

Pamela A. Moore, 2014PamelaMoore/fstop123

Nighttime food cravings? We have all been there — those moments when you’re burning the midnight oil trying to finish a project or watching a little late-night TV and all of a sudden can’t get the thought of a big bowl of ice cream or dish of salty snacks out of your mind, no matter what you do. It’s like a crazy itch that sneaks up on you, demanding to be scratched.

Turns out, there may be a biological underpinning for those after-hours food obsessions.

A study recently published in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior used brain scans and pictures of both high-energy and low-energy foods to track how participants’ neural responses to the food images differed depending on the time of day, measuring them in the morning and at night. The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University, examined both hunger and preoccupation with food.

The MRIs of the study participants’ brains showed a lower response to the images of both high- and low-energy foods in the evening than they showed in the morning. “Researchers said this indicates we’re not as satisfied by food at night and tend to eat more to try to feel as satiated as we do during the day,”  Yahoo Food explains.

What’s more, while the participants, all healthy women, said they were no more hungry at one time of day than another, they reported that in the evening, they were able to eat more and thought about food way more than they did in the morning.

So, yes, you can blame your brain for your late-night cravings, but that doesn’t mean you should give in to them, given the potential effect on your waistline and your health. Or if you must snack, try something healthy.

Here are a few ideas.

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