It’s late, you’re tired, and you’re on another Netflix marathon when your stomach calls out to you. If you’ve ever wondered why you always feel hungrier late at night, there could be a good reason.
According to the New York Times, the reasons why you’re stuffing your face late at night could be due to your hormones. A new study published in the International Journal of Obesity discovered that the hormone, ghrelin, that controls appetite and satiety were the cause of night-time hunger in their study participants.
“There’s more opportunity to eat in the evening, but this study is showing that hormonal responses are setting them up to do this,” said Susan Carnell, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who was a first author of the study along with Charlotte Grillot of Florida State University.
“There is so much bias and judgment about people who are overweight, that it’s their fault or they’re lazy or just don’t have enough willpower,” Dr. Allison said. “The bottom line is that people are wired in different ways, and some of that does really depend on these biological markers.”
The study expanded on prior research in 2013 from Harvard which focused on how circadian rhythms had a part to play in hunger regulation. It also found that people’s hunger levels were actually lower in the morning compared to at night.
Dr. Satchidananda Panda, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, says that this may have been a result of evolution.
“[It] may have been an evolutionary adaptation that helped us get through the night,” he said. “For millions of years, our nighttime period was a time when we didn’t have access to food, and you also could not just get yourself food as soon as you woke up in the morning.”
So is there a way to stop yourself from eating so much at night? It’s possible, but it won’t be easy. You would have to effectively reprogramme your hormones as they’ve been conditioned to be more responsive to your existing dietary timing and habits.
“It’s not that there’s no hope for helping folks that have these issues,” said Dr Kelly Costello Allison, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania. “It just shows there are different starting points for everybody. Some people have more challenges to deal with in terms of how to regulate their food intake because of these biological reasons.”
The good news is, now you’ve got a legitimate excuse the next time you get called out for reaching for that extra bag of chips at night.
By Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health Content Producer