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How sleep deprivation affects food choices

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When you’re tired, you might seek out high-energy, calorie-dense foods, and it’s your nose that tracks them down. But how does sleep deprivation sharpen your sense of smell? It happens in the brain.

Using a functioning MRI, researchers discovered that two cortexes in the brain that control food intake don’t communicate well if you’ve only had four hours of sleep. They found that when sleep-deprived participants were presented with an array of food choices, the foods that smelled most desirable were those loaded with fats and sugars.

In the U.S., 30% of folks sleep less than six hours a night. That’s around the same percentage of Americans who are obese. Coincidence? Not entirely.

If you are struggling with your weight and are chronically sleep- deprived, we’ve got a plan for you: Train your nose to love healthy foods. Start with what you like. Garlicky salmon burgers or salad greens, for instance. Get into the aromas.

Then, tickle your nose with foods that seem more exotic to you. Fennel or cod, perhaps. You can learn to sniff out what’s good for you.

Head to bed earlier, and make your bedroom quiet (no TV or digital stuff). You’ll feel better and shed a few pounds.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to

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