Posted on Jan 07, 2020, 6 p.m.
According to a recent study published in Current Biology from researchers at the University of Virginia junk food can lead to weight gain not just because they are high in calories but also because they interrupt with sleep patterns.
The pleasure center of the brain that produces dopamine and the brain’s separate biological clock which regulates daily physiological rhythms have been demonstrated to be linked, and that foods that are high in calories that bring pleasure such as junk foods disrupt normal feeding schedules which results in over eating.
In mice studies the 24/7 availability of a high fat diet was mimicked to show that anytime snacking will eventually result in obesity and related health problems: When mice were fed diets comparable to a wild diet the animals were observed to maintain normal eating, exercise, and proper weight, but when on high calorie diets laden with fats and sugars the animals were observed to begin snacking at all hours and became obese. Mice that had their dopamine signalling disrupted did not seek the rewarding pleasure of the HFD and maintained normal eating schedules and weight even when presented with 24/7 availability of HCF.
“Overeating during mealtimes and unschedules snacking disrupts timed metabolic processes, which further contributes to weight gain,” the researchers concluded. “Diets rich in fat not only increase food consumption but also slter feeding patterns, resulting in food intake that extends into the rest phase. This disruption is feeding rhythms induces weight gain independent of overconsumption, highlighting the importance of maintaining robust feeding rhythms for proper metabolic regulation.”
“We evolved under pressures we no longer have,” explains Professor Ali Culer lead author of the study. “It is natural for our bodies as organisms to want to consume as much as possible, to store fate, because the body doesn’t know when the next meal is coming. But, of course, food is now abundant, and our next meal is as close as the kitchen, or the nearest fast food drive through, or right here on our desk. Often, these foods are high in fats, sugars, and therefore calories, and that’s why the taste good. It’s easy to overconsume, and, over time, this takes a toll on our health.”
Before electricity, people used to begin the day at dawn to work all day, often doing manual labor, and then went to sleep with the setting of the sun. Human activity was synchronized to day and night, modern day we are working, playing, and eating day and night which affects our body clocks which were evolved to operate in a sleep wake cycle timed to day time activity with moderate eating, and night time rest.
According to Guler, “This lights on all the time, eat at any time lifestyle recasts eating patterns and affects how the body utilizes energy. It alters metabolism, as our study shows, and leads to obesity, which causes disease. We’re learning that when we eat is just as important as how much we eat. A calorie is not just a calorie. Calories consumed between meals or at odd hours become stored as fat, and that is the recipe for poor health.”
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.