Science Tuesday: To Study for Finals? Or “Carb” Out and Take Over the World? Or Both?

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
@sanahfaroke

It’s about to be finals week and I’m stressing. I heard this myth once that college was supposed to be super fun with parties and football games and really chill class schedules, but that’s not the case at Boston University.

All I can think about are my 20-page papers, editorial projects and exams. And then, when I have the urge to give up, I get up, go into the kitchen and grab some Funyuns… and chocolate covered pretzels, and why not grab some Santa shaped cookies and heat up the pizza rolls and whatever else I can carry with me to the couch?

So basically, I have a feast — like straight up “the Last Supper,” with just with me and my textbooks, all in the hopes of de-stressing.

But honestly, can stress actually make us hungry for junk food? Let me tell you, #thestressisreal.

According to Kevin Laugero, a Research Nutritionist at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center/ARS/USDA and a Professor of Nutrition at the University of California Davis, we don’t actually eat more overall, we just alter what we eat. It’s no wonder why salad eaters switch to some good ol’ Velveeta mac and cheese during finals week.

The study, published in Popular Science compares human food habits with that of rodents, which is a little demeaning, but strangely accurate. Scientists have studied rats coping mechanisms with stress by cramming them into Plexiglas tubes or small areas (kind of sounds like a cubicle at the library, huh?)

When cooped in a small area for hours, scientists found that the rats lost their appetite for any type of healthy food, but were much more willing to eat junk food. I’m guessing the premise of “Ratatouille” may have some odds against it.

When animals get stressed they need additional energy to power through to escape being hunted. So, their bodies produce cortisol. This hormone triggers glucose stored in the fat and muscle and this is what motivates animals to find food that has the most calories in it. Similarly, we have comparable eating habits when it comes to stress, except we’re not running away from a predator — we’re running away from finals and trying to find comfort in a large tub of pistachio ice cream or what have you.

The thing is, stress does in fact affect us and our eating habits. To the extent that it affects 80 percent of the population, according to Popular Science. We’re all a little stressed out. Especially with finals approaching, don’t you just feel like you can take over the world when you’re “carbing” out? Well, at least until you go into a food coma, stress out about that and binge again…

Watch the video below to see something that might feel vaguely familiar to finals week:

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