Friday, March 05, 2010
Basically, I had been glued to my laptop reading countless studies and writing my thesis for about 10-14 hrs per day. I can now finally say that I have finished writing my thesis, and yesterday all 219 pages of it, including references to over 250 studies, were finally printed. The plan is for me to defend the thesis sometime mid –late April.
During the past 3 weeks, as I was working away night and day on the thesis, I noticed a significant increase in the craving of sweet snacks – things that I normally have no taste for. All I could think about was chocolate, pastries, or lattes from Starbucks. Being the nerd that I am, I tried to find some research on this topic to see if what I experienced was a normal consequence of extended mental work.
It turns out a colleague of mine, Jean-Phillipe Chaput, has actually done a study testing this very notion.
JP and colleagues eloquently explain in the introduction to their paper,
“From a physiological standpoint, the biological requirements of physical and mental work are not the same because mental work represents a type of activity that relies on brain, which utilizes glucose for its energy metabolism as opposed to physical activity, which solicits skeletal muscle metabolism that relies on fat metabolism to a significant extent.”
In other words, when you exercise your muscles you can use sugar, fat, and even protein as a fuel source, but when you exercise your brain you can only use glucose. This would seem to support my sensation of increased sugar craving while working nonstop on my thesis.
However, in the study they carried out, including 14 females doing 45-min sections of either rest, or 2 different mental tasks, while the energy intake during a buffet meal post task was significantly higher after the mental tasks, they failed to show a specific preference for sweet foods. However they did find that levels of blood sugar and insulin (the hormone that controls sugar levels) were much more variable, fluctuating wildly, during the mental tasks than during the rest session.
So this small study suggests that while mental work certainly elevates hunger, and caloric intake, it does not seem to have a specific effect on intake of sweets. However, it is possible this study was not powered to sort out such differences – a larger study, and one that also includes men is obviously necessary. I’m putting my money on increased sweet cravings.
Have a great weekend,
Oh, and our big surprise is still coming – it has just taken us a while to get it together amidst the heavy workload.
Chaput, J., Drapeau, V., Poirier, P., Teasdale, N., & Tremblay, A. (2008). Glycemic Instability and Spontaneous Energy Intake: Association With Knowledge-Based Work Psychosomatic Medicine, 70 (7), 797-804 DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31818426fa
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