Hunger and the Brain

When it comes to eating, I don’t mess around. I look forward to good food; for me, eating is not only essential, but it can be an enjoyable experience.

After reading an NPR article published earlier this week, I discovered a neurological basis for my cravings. Ira Ockene, a cardiologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has done research on caloric intake as it relates to weather. He found that people tend to eat more—and consume their food faster—starting in the fall and carrying over into the winter. Said Ockene: “We are driven by things implanted in our brain a long, long time ago.”

I like all types of food, no matter the season, and I think I eat as much in the winter as I do any other time of year (though I have found that my taste buds change according to the weather). For example, in the summer I tend to want colder food; in the winter, I desire warmer foods. This, to me, seems fairly intuitive and common.

holiday cake

Marcia Pelchat of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia said in her NPR interview that winter eating habits are done more out of opportunity than out of habit. Pelchat said the winter holidays just happen to be more food-focused—with plenty of left-overs—which gives people the opportunity to eat more than usual.

Add that to the good memories often associated with particular foods and, Pelchat claims, there is a strong chance of indulgence. Like most, I associate Thanksgiving with several foods that I only eat at that particular holiday.

No matter what the season is, eating is something we all must do to survive. Winter, spring, summer, fall—I look forward to whatever is on my plate.

–Blayne Jeffries

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