We have all felt the craving for late night snacks, not because we are hungry but because it simply seems like you will not be able to sleep until you take another bite of cake. A new research published in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior suggests that our brain is to blame for this.
Researchers at the Brigham Young University say that people have the tendency to eat more than needed at night time because it is then when our brains are less receptive to the rewards which food offers us. Some areas of our brain do not process food highs when you eat in the evening. Travis Masterson, the lead author of the study, explained:
“You might over-consume at night because food is not as rewarding, at least visually at that time of day. “It may not be as satisfying to eat at night so you eat more to try to get satisfied.”
The research team analyzed MRI scans of the participants’ brains while they looked at 360 pictures of healthy food such as vegetables and fish, but also at pictures with high-calorie food such as candy, donuts, fast food and ice cream. The participants viewed the pictures both during day time and night time.
The MRI scans were used to measure how the brain reacts to food with different levels of calories at different times of the day. The results showed that the brain responded with spikes of activity at the both set of images. In the case of high-calorie food the response was neutral. What is interesting is the fact that the brain showed a less intense activity when the participants looked at the images at night. This implies that the food reward response of the brain is weakened at late hours.
Lance Davidson of Brigham Young University, co-author of the study, said that they expected the responses to be enhanced at night since we tend to over-consume at that time of the day.
So the differences in brain response at different times of the days have an impact on eating. The researchers are not sure why at night time food is not as rewarding but it may have something to do with the natural circadian rhythms of the body which control our patterns of activity and rest.
What could help you refrain from eating at late hours is realizing that we are more visually influenced in the morning and also be aware that at night time we are less satisfied. This could help changing unhealthy eating habits.
Image Source: First We Feast