Human brain loves food loaded with carbs & fats

The human brain values foods that are high in both fat and carbohydrates rather than those containing either fat or carbohydrates, says a study published in Cell Metabolism (June). This explains why humans are attracted to processed foods such as fries, sausages, bacon, ham and ready-to-eat meals. These foods tend to hijack the body’s inborn signals governing food consumption and the brain’s reward system, according to Dana Small, director of the Modern Diet and Physiology Research Center at Yale University, USA, which conducted the study.

“Surprisingly, foods containing fats and carbohydrates appear to signal their potential caloric loads to the brain via distinct mechanisms. Our study shows that when both nutrients are combined, the brain seems to overestimate the energetic value of the food,” says Small.

The study analysed data of 206 adults, with participants undergoing brain scans while being shown photographs of familiar snacks containing mostly fat, mostly carbs, and a combination of fat and carbohydrates and were allocated a small amount of money to bid on their first-choice food. The results showed that the participants were willing to pay more for foods that combined fat and carbohydrates.


Go to bed early, stay depression-free

There’s one more reason to go early to bed. If you go to bed early, you are less likely to suffer depression, reveals a recent study conducted by the University of Colorado-Boulder, USA. According to Celine Vetter, director of the university’s Circadian and Sleep Epidemiology Laboratory and lead author, women who stay up late at nights are twice as likely to suffer from depression. The late chronotypes aka night owls, are less likely to be married, more likely to live alone, become smokers, and more likely to suffer erratic sleep patterns, says the study.

To conduct the study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research (June), the team analysed 32,000 women nurses to explore the link between chronotype, or sleep-wake preference, and mood disorders. The results showed that even after accounting for environmental factors such as light exposure and work schedules, chronotype — which is in part determined by genetics — increases depression risk. 


Helicopter parenting linked to child behavioural problems 

Children of over-controlling parents, aka “helicopter parents”, are less able to control their emotions and impulses as they grow older, says a recent study published in the US-based journal Developmental Psychology (June).
Researchers from the US and Switzerland interacted with 422 infants and their mothers and examined to what degree the mothers dominated the playtime and activities of their children and tracked their behaviour over the next eight years. They found that controlling parenting is linked to several problems including poor control of emotions, inadequate social skills and poor academic performance of children until they attained ten years of age. 

Comments Dr. Nicole Perry of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, who co-authored the research: “Our research shows that children with helicopter parents are less able to deal with life’s challenges as they grow up, especially in coping with complex school environments. Children who cannot regulate their emotions and behaviour effectively, are more likely to act them out in the classroom, and have a harder time making friends in school.”


Sleep deprivation-cardiovascular health connection

The quantity and quality of sleep adolescents experience has significant effects on their cardiovascular health including blood pressure, cholesterol level, and abdominal fat deposition, according to a study published in Pediatrics (June). Researchers, led by Elsie Taveras, chief of the Division of General Academic Pediatrics in the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Boston, assessed the duration as well as the percentage of undisturbed sleep of 829 adolescents.

The study found that both shorter sleep duration and low sleep efficiency increase levels of abdominal fat deposition, after adjustments for physical activity, television viewing and consumption of fast foods or sweetened beverages. Longer sleep duration and better sleep quality reduce cardiometabolic risks in adolescents.

 “The adolescents had their night-time sleep and daily physical activity measured over 7-10 days by actigraphy, which records physical motion through a device worn on the wrist,” says Taveras.

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