Sleep deprivation makes you crave more unhealthy foods

Lack of sleep can increase appetite for unhealthy foods, a recent study led by Erin Hanlon, at the University of Chicago suggests.

Woman's cravings

One in three adults in U.S doesn’t have adequate sleep and the percentage of obese people is the same, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The study is aimed to link the two national health problems.

As the nutrients consumed are balanced with the energy costs of keeping body awake, lack of sleep can be a risk factor which causes hunger, according to Hanlon.

In the study, a group of healthy young adults who had 4 nights of sufficient sleep (8.5 hours) was compared to another group including those who had 4 nights of insufficient sleep (4.5 hours). Both groups were served up prepared meals. On the last day, they were provided a healthy meal, followed by a snack bar with candies, chips and cookies. Participants in the sleepdeprived group tended to foods from the snack bar with more carbohydrates and approximately twice as much protein and fat.

The previous research of the team also suggested that regular deprived-sleep could affect levels of endocannabinoids, brain’s chemicals that attach to the same receptors as marijuana and involve regulating appetite.

Previously, Hanlon’s team, from Universite Libre de Bruxelles and Medical College of Wisconsin, was able to show the connection between the level of 2AG, a specific endocannabinoid in the blood and hunger. Normally, the concentration of 2AG little by little increased during the day and reached a peak in the early afternoon which coincided with the onset of afternoon munchies.

The researchers noted that those who had insufficient sleep not only had a greater rise in 2AG concentration which lasted into the late evening, but also felt hungrier and more desirable to eating unhealthy foods.

Despite the small scale of the study, Hanlon’s team ran statistical tests on the data and found actually significant differences among the two groups.

The study is important to better understand the association between the sleep deprivation, endocannabinoid system, and weight gain, according to Halon. Frank Scheer of the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital also added that it would help design new strategies to adjust the signaling through the endocannabinoid system without using drugs.

She also added that deprivedsleep has been tied to multiple negative outcomes and it’s just one step to understand how taking enough rest can actually promotes our health.

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