A new study shows that food eaten in the evening isn't as satisfying so we want more

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Image: This is why you crave that midnight snack, according to science

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Bruce, Bruce, Bruce!

You know the story: it's been a hard day at work, you set up camp in front of the fridge, bathed in its light, and you gobble down that second slice of chocolate cake. Then you think “that wasn’t enough”. Don’t feel guilty, though: according to a new study, it's not your fault.


Researchers from Brigham Young University in the US found that we don’t get the same ‘food high’ in the evening as we do during the day, which makes us want more.


The study used MRI scans to measure how people’s brains respond to images of high-calorie foods, such as sweets and ice-cream, and low-calorie ones including vegetables, fish and grains, at different times of the day.


Participants were shown 360 images in the morning and then, after a week, the same images in the evening while they were in an MRI scanner.

They found that high-calorie foods generated spikes in their brain activity and didn't produce the same reward signals that make people feel satisfied. This indicates a reason as to why we eat more at night.

Travis Masterson, lead author of the study which was published in the journal Brain Imaging and Behaviour, said: “You might over-consume at night because food is not as rewarding, at least visually, at that time of day.

“It might not be as satisfying to eat at night so you eat more to try to get satisfied.”


Lance Davidson, professor of exercise sciences and the study's co-author, added: “We thought the responses would be greater at night because we tend to over-consume later in the day.

“But just to know that the brain responds differently at different times of the day could have implications for eating.”


While we’re guessing much more research is needed, for now we’ll just have to keep a firm lid on the biscuit tin after dark.