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Want to curb junk food cravings? Get more sleep

hamburger_080713More than a third of adult Americans are obese and, coincidentally, roughly a third of men and women in the United States are sleep-deprived. Or, maybe it's not such a coincidence?

Past studies have linked inadequate sleep to obesity, and now new research from University of California, Berkeley offers insights into how not getting enough shut-eye can trigger poor nutritional choices.

In the small study, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of healthy young adults after both a normal night's sleep and a sleepless night. Study results showed impaired activity in areas of the brain’s frontal lobe that regulate complex decision-making and a boost in deeper brain centers, which respond to rewards. Additionally, sleep-deprived participants favored unhealthy snack and junk foods.

A recent PsychCentral story highlights the significance of the findings:

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.

“These results shed light on how the brain becomes impaired by sleep deprivation, leading to the selection of more unhealthy foods and, ultimately, higher rates of obesity,” said Stephanie Greer, a doctoral student and lead author of the paper.

Previously: Want teens to eat healthy? Make sure they get a good night’s sleep, More evidence linking sleep deprivation and obesity, How lack of sleep affects the brain and may increase appetite, weight gain and Study shows link between lack of sleep
Photo by Christian Newton

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