___thinkingthin (___thinkingthin) wrote in ed_ucate,
___thinkingthin
___thinkingthin
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Light and its relationship with food cravings

I was initially looking into sleeping disorders, sleeping pill use, etc. because I've been struggling with mild insomnia lately, and I stumbled across this interesting little blurb on the relationship between your amount of exposure to light and the intensity of carb cravings you may have. The whole article is extremely short and simple, and it also talks about the reason why 5HTP and L-Tryptophan don't work any better than placebo drugs.


Food Cravings? What your body is trying to tell you...

"One common symptom of depression is weight gain. The reason we can’t seem to control our appetite isn’t all in your head Your brain is producing the wrong chemicals, and your body is compensating by taking them from the foods you eat.

Scientists have known that low levels of serotonin may contribute to depression. They also have found the link between low serotonin levels and weight gain. When serotonin levels are low, your body looks for a substitute in carbohydrates. The sugars in carbohydrates cause the pancreas to release more insulin, which in turn allows more serotonin type chemicals to be absorbed by the brain. But this effect lasts only a few minutes and leaves you craving more food.

This process is also very inefficient, because food is not a rich source of serotonin chemicals.


Why 5HTP and L-Tryptophan don’t work

When researchers discovered the relationship between serotonin and weight gain, they started marketing serotonin type compounds like 5HTP and L-Tryptophan as weight loss supplements. L-Tryptophan is the basic building block of serotonin, and 5-HTP is a synthesized intermediate compound closer to serotonin. The theory is that adding these compounds will aid the brain’s ability to produce more serotonin. However, after 30 years, researchers have given up on this hypothesis. The brain does not synthesize 5HTP or L-Tryptophan readily into serotonin.


Why light may be effective

One thing scientists found interesting was the fact that Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers commonly craved carbohydrates, and that those cravings disappeared when they used bright light. Light produces serotonin naturally in the brain, and they theorized that as the levels of serotonin increase, the cravings decreased. Some initial studies have borne this out, and a large, multi center studyis being conducted to confirm this.

We know light makes you feel better, now we’re learning it may make you look better too.


Basically, if you're struggling with cravings for carbs, getting outside and playing in the sunshine may do you a world of good. Actually, being anywhere where there is bright light would probably do the trick.

The article can be found here:
http://www.apollolight.com/new_content/circadian%20rhythms_disorders/depression/food_cravings.html
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