Can’t seem to stop reaching for carb-laden snacks? The trigger of your carb cravings might be ‘social stress’ according to Japanese researchers.
In a recent study, a team of experts at Japan’s National Institute for Physiological Sciences found a link between social stress and an increased desire to eat carbohydrates. In the study—which, we should note, used mice and not humans—they found that lab mice who had specific neurons activated ate three times more high-carbohydrate food than mice under normal conditions. Interestingly, they also ate half as much fat.
The team think this study might help scientists find a way to help stop people from binging on carb-heavy junk food when they’re stressed. Or, at the very least, encourage you to give yourself a break next time you go overboard on the snacks. “Many people who eat sweets too much when stressed tend to blame themselves for being unable to control their impulses,” Yasuhiko Minokoshi, a scientist at the institute who led the study told AFP. “But if they know it’s because of the neurons they might not be so hard on themselves,” he said.
While we do know that humans normally select what they want to eat based on the taste and the body’s nutritional state, we still don’t fully understand the exact process involved in food selection and cravings. This research gives us some clues about the role that the brain plays in the preference for carbohydrates or fats.
However, don’t expect the finding to immediately be used to change the way we eat. Minokoshi cautioned that simply suppressing the neurons noted in the study could have side effects. “However, if we could find a particular molecule in the neurons and target it specifically to suppress part of its activities, it could curb excessive eating of carbohydrate-heavy food,” he added.
Want to know more? The full study will run in the US journal Cell Reports soon.