You’re home at night working, watching TV or reading when suddenly a craving hits. Never mind that you’re not actually famished, you need food immediately. And, unfortunately, you’ll probably eat more than you should. According to new research from Brigham Young University, there’s science behind this phenomenon. In a new study published in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior, researchers discovered that some areas of the brain don’t get the same “food high” at night as they do during the day. Does that make food a drug? No. It simply means you need more food to satisfy yourself at night.
What Did The Researchers Study?
Scientists used MRIs to measure how people’s brains respond to high- and low-calorie food images in the morning and at night. They discovered that images of food, especially high-calorie options, spurred brain spikes throughout the day, but those responses were lower in the evening. 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. They also discovered that we’re more obsessed with food at night, even when our hunger and fullness levels are the same as they are at other times of the day. You don’t say!
Midnight Cravings Can Cause Severe Health Issues
This in turn has a few implications for our health — and none of them are good. Typically, eating at night leads to overeating on poor food choices and is not out of hunger, people usually grab sweets or salty chips, which may calm the mind but trigger overeating.
Our bodies are actually physiologically programmed to consume more in the evening, which intensifies cravings that we might otherwise brush off during the day. This can lead to weight gain, which is linked to negative health consequences, including an increased risk of developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. So much for midnight munchies.
While we may want to eat more at night, experts say it’s possible to keep those cravings at bay. Eating more during the day, making sure to include healthy snacks between meals that contain protein and healthy fats, and having a satisfying, but not over-sized, dinner will help keep you satisfied into the night and reduce the temptation to eat a huge dinner and snack afterward. You can also train yourself to eat less at night.
But let’s face it, midnight hogging sessions are the reason most of us live and it is not a habit we can (or even want to) give up! In which case, just opt for healthier choices in smaller portions. Grab a protein-based snack that will help fill you up, such as a packet of almonds, a hard-boiled egg, or low-fat Greek yogurt.