Late-night hunger explained

How your body clock causes cravings.

By Amanda First for




If you find yourself elbow-deep in a box of dry cereal late at night, blame your cavewoman ancestors. A new study from Oregon Health & Science University and Harvard University found that it’s your body’s internal clock, the circadian system, that may be causing late-night cravings for sweet, starchy and salty foods. And we’re not just talking about night owls, or people who try and diet throughout the day: according to the study accepted by the journal Obesity, you’ll still get hungry when your body’s internal clock is set to nighttime—no matter the actual time of day, and even if you eat a balanced diet all day long.

Researchers essentially reset the internal clocks of study participants, to make sure larks and owls alike experienced the same effect. Volunteers were then sequestered for two weeks without TV, Internet, phones or visitors (we’d never make it through!) in a hotel-room-esque lab suite where the lights were so dim they could never tell what time of day it was or even what day of the week. Then the researchers varied what time each participant ate and slept, setting each volunteer’s body clock so even if he or she went to sleep at two o’clock in the afternoon, it still felt like nighttime. Participants ate the same mixture and amount of food at regular intervals while they were awake.

Keep reading for more details on the study…

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