FoodFacts.com spends a lot of time advocating for nutritional awareness. The more educated consumers become, the more conscious they will be regarding their food choices. Knowledge is power … and that’s just as true when it comes to nutrition as it is for any other subject. But nutritional awareness and education often encompass subjects outside of actual food products and ingredients. Subjects like exercise and sleep tend to have affects on our health and well-being as well.
Today we learned that new research coming out of the University of California Berkeley is linking lack of sleep to less-than-desirable food choices. A sleepless night might actually make you more likely to crave a doughnut or a slice of pizza. The research is raising new questions about the link between poor sleep and obesity.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), UC Berkeley researchers scanned the brains of 23 healthy young adults, first after a normal night’s sleep and next, after a sleepless night. They found impaired activity in the sleep-deprived brain’s frontal lobe, which governs complex decision-making, but increased activity in deeper brain centers that respond to rewards. Moreover, the participants favored unhealthy snack and junk foods when they were sleep deprived.
It appears that high-level brain regions that are involved in complex judgments and decisions become blunted by lack of sleep. At the same time, that lack of sleep causes more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire to become amplified. High calorie foods become more desirable when sleep-deprived because of this combination of altered brain activity and decision making.
Previous studies have linked poor sleep to greater appetites, particularly for sweet and salty foods, but the latest findings provide a specific brain mechanism explaining why food choices change for the worse following a sleepless night.
In this newest study, researchers measured brain activity as participants viewed a series of 80 food images that ranged from high-to low-calorie and healthy and unhealthy, and rated their desire for each of the items. As an incentive, they were given the food they most craved after the MRI scan.
Food choices presented in the experiment ranged from fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, apples and carrots, to high-calorie burgers, pizza and doughnuts. The latter are examples of the more popular choices following a sleepless night.
FoodFacts.com wants to emphasize the importance of healthy lifestyle as it contributes to healthy food choices. Physical exercise and adequate sleep will contribute to how we approach our diets. Healthier food choices aren’t simply dependent on our food awareness, they are also the result of our lifestyle habits. Let’s make the best choices possible for our overall healthy lifestyle and our food choices will follow accordingly!