Most of us have ventured into the kitchen late at night on at least one occasion. While this is certainly a fun and naughty habit, it can wreak havoc on your overall health.
But don’t worry, you’re not alone.
In fact, according to one study, our circadian clock boosts our appetite late at night regardless of whether or not we have already eaten. Even so, it is best to ignore that late night urge because it could do a lot more harm than just add a few pounds to the scale.
The Munchies Come From Survival Mode
The term ‘munchies’ comes from the human behavior of ‘munching’ unnecessarily on food even though we may not be hungry. While this behavior can be annoying in our very modern society that demands svelte waistlines and optimal health, it originally developed as a way to survive.
Foods high in starches, sugars, and salt were fairly hard to find for our ancestors, though they were essential for sustaining enough calories to survive. As a result, our bodies developed a survival mechanism that signaled our brains to eat as much as possible when we finally did discover these foods.
As our ancestors often did not know when their next meals would come, it was important that they would binge until their bodies received enough energy to survive.
Thousands of years later, however, we have an abundance of food and no need for binging. Yet, our brains continue to signal to us that we must consume as much energy as possible.
As a result, many of us overeat without fully considering the consequences. The biggest consequences are obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
This is particularly tricky as our internal clocks do a lot of the motivation for eating late at night, which is especially bad for our health. The interesting part is that without our internal clock, or the circadian rhythm, our bodies may not respond to this eating pattern at all.
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Circadian Rhythm Increases Triglyceride Levels With Late Night Eating
In a study with rats, the researchers examined how the circadian rhythm may affect triglyceride levels.
When rats ate late at night, their triglyceride levels were elevated. Then the researchers removed the part of the brain responsible for the circadian clock. As a result, the rats had stable triglyceride levels no matter when they ate.
This is important information as heightened triglyceride levels can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. While it would be totally unethical, and dangerous even, to remove this part of your brain, it does shed light on how our eating habits are related to our overall health.
If you want to avoid these problems, simply stick to daylight hours when you’re eating. Remember that food is fuel. If you don’t need energy, such as when you are sleeping, then you do not need fuel.