If you’re one of the any people who gets hungry late at night, trolling the dinner leftovers in the fridge and the ice cream in your freezer, you’re not alone. The New York Times reports that a December study in the International Journal Of Obesity found that “afternoon/evening may be a high-risk period for overeating, particularly when paired with stress exposure, and for those with binge eating.” This finding hardly seems surprising, until the Times points out that these findings align with “earlier work, including a 2013 Harvard study of normal-weight individuals that found circadian rhythms play a role in regulating appetite, and that hunger peaks in the evening and appetite is, paradoxically, at its lowest in the morning, even though people have not eaten all night.”
The reasoning for this seemingly illogical hunger pattern—starving late at night, not so much in the morning—may be hormonal, but it also may be ancestral. Dr. Satchidananda Panda, a professor at the Salk Institute For Biological Studies in San Diego, points out, “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.” The Times concludes, “In the modern era, with easy access to food at any time of day or night, that evolutionary adaptation may be backfiring, leading to loss of control and nighttime binges.” So perhaps your midnight snacking trolling is making up for lost time for your prehistoric ancestors who found it difficult to hunt and gather in the dark—making your late-night Cherry Garcia snack a little less guilty and a little more understandable. The rest of the story is worth your while.