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Unhealthy food is craved when tired

Sleep deprivation may be associated with the desire for unhealthy foods, according to a small study of 25 participants presented Sunday.

Researchers at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center and
Columbia University in New York used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of the participants as they looked at images of healthy and unhealthy foods, both after their sleep was restricted and after regular sleep.

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The parts of the brain associated with feeling pleasure were activated at the sight of unhealthy food when the participants were sleep-deprived, but not when rested.

Previous studies have linked sleep deprivation with an increased risk for obesity. The study suggests that an increased desire to eat unhealthy food when sleep-deprived may be a factor in weight gain.

BOTTOM LINE: Sleep deprivation may be associated with an increased desire for unhealthy foods.

CAUTIONS: The methods and results of the small preliminary study have not been peer reviewed or published, and the researchers did not study whether sleep-deprived participants actually ate more unhealthy food.

WHERE TO FIND IT: American Academy of Sleep Medicine annual meeting.

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