If a nightcap of just one cookie is not enough, don’t worry; it’s not really your fault…well, at least it’s not any failure in willpower. Your brain just may not be processing the message to stop.
Travis Masterson, lead author of a recent study published in Brain Imaging and Behavior, found people simply are not getting the same buzz from their favorite snacks in the late-night hours. The result? In an attempt for your brain to feel satisfied, that one cookie leads to a second and a single chip may begat a handful.
During the study, the research team placed 15 healthy women in an fMRI and showed them pictures of lower-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables as well as more caloric foods like ice cream and fast food. The women were shown the photos in two shifts – once in the morning and again in the evening. The sessions were held one week apart and diets for the group remained consistent.
Brain activity spiked for all the images, but the brain consistently reacted more dramatically when it recognized the more caloric foods. However, they also discovered that those neural responses were lower in the evening session than the morning. Masterson explains, “You might over-consume at night because food is not as rewarding, at least visually, at that time of day… so you eat more to try to get satisfied.”
His tip? “I tell myself, this isn’t probably as satisfying as it should be. It helps me avoid snacking too much at night.” So, go ahead and reach for that late-night cookie but let the others in the box know they ain’t all that much.