RSSSleep deprivation hardwires your hungry brain

Posted on Mon, 12 Mar 12

Sleep deprivation hardwires your hungry brain

Lack of sleep is a major risk factor for weight gain and obesity and a new study helps explain why, it changes the way your brain behaves.

Though diet and exercise are touted as the major contributors to the obesity epidemic there are other equally important causes, like lack of sleep.

Sleep deprivation is known to increase appetite, food consumption and your waistline but exactly how is still unclear.

A group of normal weight men underwent sleep deprivation and subsequent brain imaging by functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to see if the way their brain behaved changed after viewing images of food.

When exposed to images of high calorie food the sleep deprived men showed an increased activation of a brain area involved in hunger motivation. Brain activation correlated with increases in their appetite and was independent of changes in blood sugar. Images of low calorie food did not have any effect.

Commenting on their findings the research group wrote “these results provide evidence that acute sleep loss enhances hedonic stimulus processing in the brain underlying the drive to consume food, independent of plasma glucose levels. These findings highlight a potentially important mechanism contributing to the growing levels of obesity in Western society.”


Benedict C, Brooks SJ, O'Daly OG, Almèn MS, Morell A, Aberg K, Gingnell M, Schultes B, Hallschmid M, Broman JE, Larsson EM, Schiöth HB. Acute Sleep Deprivation Enhances the Brain's Response to Hedonic Food Stimuli: An fMRI Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Jan 18. [Epub ahead of print]

Tags: Sleep, Weight Gain, Obesity

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