Findings of a new study have suggested that you may just be bored when you find yourself craving for junk food.
In a new research presented at the British Psychological Society's annual meeting on April 27, researchers conducted experiments to see the effects of boredom on people's food choices.
In the first experiment, participants were told to answer a questionnaire about food preferences before and after they were asked to do a repetitive task. The researchers observed that after finishing the boring task, the participants tend to prefer unhealthy food such as sweets, chips and fast food.
In the second experiment, researchers offered the participants healthy and unhealthy snacks while they were watching a funny or boring video. The researchers observed that the participants who watched the boring video preferred eating more of the unhealthy snacks.
Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the reward and pleasure circuit of the brain, may help explain the link between boredom and preference for unhealthy food.
Dopamine tends to be lower in people experiencing episodes of boredom. The body may respond to low levels of dopamine by consuming food that may trigger pleasure. The researchers said that people may try to boost the low levels of the brain chemical by consuming unhealthy snacks.
"People try to boost this by eating fat and sugar if they cannot alleviate their boredom in some other way," said study author Sandi Mann from the University of Central Lancashire.
The researcher said that the result of the study may be helpful with public health campaigns. People who design health education campaigns aimed at promoting healthy eating, for instance, need to take boredom into consideration.
Preference for junk food appears to be influenced by an unhealthy lifestyle. Earlier studies have also shown that people who lack sleep are more likely to crave unhealthy food.
Eating junk food is known to contribute to obesity risk as well as memory problems. Eating sugary food products may also cause irritability and uncontrollable cravings as well as chemical changes that can lead to depression.
Fortunately, a study has found that it is possible to train the brain to love eating healthy food.