WHY THE JUNK FOOD CRAV­INGS?

Healthy Food Guide (Australia) - - FEATURES -

Have you ever had a late night out and wo­ken up crav­ing a salad? Didn’t think so. What’s more likely is you went for some­thing with a lit­tle more fat or starchy carbs — the foods that we know ac­cel­er­ate weight gain and as­so­ci­ated dis­eases like di­a­betes.

Stud­ies show crav­ings for su­gary sweets, heavy carbs and salty snacks in­crease by more than 30 per cent when you’re tired, com­pared with food choices you make when you’ve had eight hours sleep. But why do we lust af­ter th­ese foods?

It seems we phys­i­cally ‘switch off’ our bet­ter judge­ment when we’re tired. A re­search team at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia scanned peo­ple’s brains while they were view­ing food items — once when they’d had a full night’s sleep, and once when they were sleep de­prived. The team then rated how much the par­tic­i­pants de­sired each food. It dis­cov­ered that the ra­tio­nal con­trol re­gions at the front of the brain, which nor­mally keep our he­do­nis­tic food de­sires in check, had shut down. Worse still, the more pri­mal, deep-brain struc­tures that drive im­pul­sive de­ci­sions were revved up in re­sponse to de­sir­able food im­ages.

With­out sleep, your body shifts to a more prim­i­tive pat­tern of brain ac­tiv­ity that favours un­con­trolled im­pul­siv­ity, mak­ing you reach for a giant muffin rather than healthy leafy greens.

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