Are winter’s colder temps and fewer daylight hours changes that affect eating and food cravings? Some researchers suspect cool weather may trigger an evolutionary relic inside us to fatten up to survive tough environmental conditions, the way many other animals do. One study published the journal Nature found that participants did consume an average of 86 more calories per day in fall, compared with spring, and ate more fat and saturated fat in the winter months. But the researchers that conducted that study also noted that over the course of a year that magnitude of “extra” calories was fairly small.
Another theory is that the change of season may change the balance of some of the hormones that control hunger and appetite. A review published in 2013 in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, which looked at data both in people and in animals, found that seasonal changes did affect many hormones related to hunger and appetite, including glucocorticoids, ghrelin, and leptin.
Fewer daylight hours may affect food cravings, too. Sunlight is one of the factors that triggers the release of the hormone serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has been shown to boost your mood significantly. Carbohydrate intake (thanks to the insulin that gets released as a result) also increases serotonin levels — and research suggests that people thus may crave carbohydrates as a way to improve mood, particularly in people with seasonal depression, who may have lower serotonin levels and mood because of reduced exposure to sunlight.
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