Study: why a lack of sleep is making you fat


Poor sleeping habits make you more likely to reach for doughnuts or pizza than fruits and veggies, according to a recent study from the University of California in Berkeley.

Researchers examined the brain regions that control food choices in 23 healthy, young adults. They scanned the brains, 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 snacks and junk foods when they were sleep deprived.

“What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” said Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience and senior author of the study published earlier this month in the journal Nature Communications.

He added that high-calorie foods also became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep-deprived. He said this may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese.

On a positive note, Walker said, the findings indicate that “getting enough sleep is one factor that can help promote weight control."

For more information on the study, click here.

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