The Easy Way to Cut Cravings

Feel like inhaling every snack food in sight? Chances are you didn’t get enough sleep last night. Sleep deprivation may trigger cravings by increasing levels of a molecule in your body that makes eating more pleasurable, according to new research presented at The Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting earlier this month.

For the study, researchers from the University of Chicago Medicine and the Medical College of Wisconsin had nine young, slim, healthy adults spend two six-day stints in a sleep lab. During the first session, they slept 8.5 hours a night—and during the next, they slept just 4.5 hours a night.

The researchers found that the participants’ peak levels of 2-AG—a molecule that influences how much pleasure you get from eating—were 15 percent higher if the subjects were sleep deprived. The molecule is something called an endocannabinoid, which can trigger cravings for calorie-dense foods similar to the munchies caused by marijuana’s cannabinoids, says study author Erin Hanlon, PhD, research associate at the University of Chicago’s section of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism.

“Sleep deficiency influences hedonic mechanisms so that highly palatable or high-reward foods are preferred and consumed,” she says. Translation: Skimp on the shuteye, and you’ll want to load up on high-fat and high-sugar foods the next day.

Previous research shows that sleep deprivation contributes to increased appetite, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes. While sleeping fewer than six hours a night spikes hunger by influencing levels of appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, this study explains why junk food might be so hard to resist after a sleep-deprived night—even if you aren’t feeling hungry. Researchers aren’t sure why a lack of shuteye raises 2-AG levels, but they say it could be your body’s way of ensuring you increase your energy (aka calorie) intake to perk up after a less-than-restful night.

According to previous research published in the journal SLEEP, nine hours a night is the optimal amount of sleep when it comes to your waistline. Still, everyone’s exact target number is different, says Nathaniel Watson, MD, MS, co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center. Want to find yours? The next chance you get, go to bed when you feel tired and wake up in the morning sans alarm. After a few days of this, calculate the average number of hours you snoozed each night, says Watson. That’s how many you need to stay healthy—and slim.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Published on June 26th, 2013

How Food Packaging Messes With Your Mind

Chew on this: People are more likely to think a food item is healthier if it has a green calorie label, according to a new study out of Cornell University.

The study, published in the journal Health Communication, took place in two parts. First, 93 undergrad participants looked at a picture of one of two candy bars. The candy bars each had the same number of calories listed: 260. In fact, they were nearly identical—the only difference between them was that one had a green calorie label, and the other had a red calorie label. Yet the participants who looked at the photo of the green-labeled candy bar judged it to be significantly healthier and to have fewer calories than other candy bars.

“Green means go and has generally positive associations, so we might see that as a green light to indulge,” says Jonathon Schuldt, PhD, the lead study author, assistant professor of communication, and director of Cornell’s Social Cognition and Communication Lab. Since red can of course carry its own implications (Stop! Warning!), the researchers decided it was unclear whether it was the green or the red that caused the results—so they performed a second study. This time, 60 online participants looked at a candy bar with either a green or a white calorie label, and they answered a question about how much value they put on healthy eating. Those who put a lot of weight on healthy eating thought the candy bar with the green label was healthier than the one with the white label.

“Even when we provided the participants with identical calorie information, the color was able to exert this effect,” says Schuldt. “It’s a reminder that it’s hard for us to navigate decisions about what’s healthy.”

Published on March 20th, 2013
Written by: Alison Goldman, Women’s Health Assistant Online Editor


Following a meal that’s high in fat with coffee and dessert can cause your blood sugar to sky rocket, according to new research from the University of Guelph in Canada.  “Coffee and fat slow your body’s ability to deal with sugar, explains lead author Marie-Soleil Beaudoin.  “in our study, they temporarily sent participants blood sugar to levels similar to those of prediabetic patients”.  Have a cup of decaf instead, you’ll sleep better too.

Fitness Magazine September 2011


Eat a lighter lunch and you could drop 26 pounds this year and never feel hungry.  A recent study in the journal Appetite found that people who opted for a portion controlled dish at midday took in about 250 fewer calories daily and felt as full immediately afterward as those who served themselves from a buffet.  The act of sitting down to a meal is satisfying regardless how big or small it is, lead author David A Levitsky PHD says.  Smart, slimming lunch choices include low calorie frozen meals, like Amys Light & Lean Pasta & Veggies, and single serve soup cups.

Fitness Magazine January 2012

5 Food Rules to Live By

  1. Snack on Almonds:  When salty cravings strike, bypass the pretzels or popcorn and grab some almonds!  California researchers found that those who noshed on nuts shrank their waistlines nearly 50% more than dieters that didn’t eat them, despite eating the same amount of calories.
  2. Fill up on fiber:  when you slow digestion, you slow the delivery of glucose to the bloodstream, meaning less insulin is released and with lower insulin release comes lower visceral (belly) fat storage.  Aim for at least 25 grams a day!
  3. Stay satisfied with protein.  Gram for gram protein has the same number of calories as carbs (and half that of fat), but takes longer to digest, so you feel fuller longer.
  4. Skip the sweetener:  In a 5 week study by Purdue University researchers, rats given unlimited access to artificially sweetened yogurt consumed more calories, gained more weight and packed on more fat than those who ate sugar sweetened yogurt.  Researchers believe that artificial sweeteners may hinder your body’s ability to regulate calories based on taste so you end up overeating.
  5. Dump one high cal item from your diet:  Exercise works best when you don’t off-set it with empty calories.  You can easily reduce your daily calorie intake by 250 calories by making this change.

Prevention Magazine October 2008