Late night snacking has never been considered a healthy life choice. However, researchers have discovered some key aspects that explain why people crave foods late at night and how the addiction can be turned into a healthy eating practice.
It appears specific areas of our brain don’t get the same “food high” in the evening as during the day. This partly explains why late night snacks seem so appealing and may satiate the cravings. Scientists arrived at the conclusion after subjecting volunteers to MRI scans to measure how brains respond to high- and low-calorie food images at different times of the day.
As expected, images of food, especially high-calorie food, generate significant spikes in neural activity. However, those exact neural responses aren’t as strong in the evening, stated researcher Travis Masterson.
“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.”
Interestingly, the study also discovered that participants were subjectively more preoccupied with food at night, even though their hunger and “fullness” levels were similar to other times of the day. In other words, the cravings were stronger during night time, even when the volunteers were quite full, added Lance Davidson, a professor of exercise sciences,
“We thought the responses would be greater at night because we tend to over-consume later in the day. But just to know that the brain responds differently at different times of day could have implications for eating.”
What he suggested has a profound impact not just how we eat, but the time at which we eat the food is governed not just by our digestive system, but also by multiple other senses. It has been apparent for quite some time that our enteric nervous system is as good as a secondary brain that not just controls our cravings, but influences our moods and other biological and psychological aspects as well.
Can we use the late night snack addiction to our advantage? It is clear that it is the visuals of the food that influence our “satisfaction level.” Though eating anything late at night isn’t conducive, substituting high-calorie foods with high-fiber snacks can have a wondrous effect on our body. Fresh carrots or apples that are visually appealing can easily offer health benefits. Merely ensuring these healthy foods look visually appealing should trick the mind into feeling more satisfaction.
[Image Credit | The Odyssey]