Eating protein and salty foods at lunch causes food comas, says new study

A burger and chips before a big meeting probably isn't your best bet

Rachel Hosie
Wednesday 11 January 2017 14:01

The 3pm post-lunch slump has been hampering afternoon meetings for as long as mankind has worked in offices.

If you’ve had a particularly huge meal, you may even fall into a food coma, where all you want to do is lie down and have a snooze. We’ve all been there.

But this sluggishness we feel from overindulging isn’t just in our heads - there’s a scientific term for it: postprandial somnolence. And it’s not just down to the quantity of food we eat.

A new study has discovered that when we eat a meal particularly high in protein and salt - say, a burger and chips - we’re more likely to feel fatigued afterwards.

Researchers from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and Florida’s Scripps Research Institute used fruit-flies to investigate the neurobiological links between eating and sleep.

They discovered that protein and salt are the causes of the infamous food coma, the reason being that they are “expensive commodities,” so our bodies have to work harder to digest them and extract the nutrients.

Interestingly, the researchers found that carbohydrates didn’t have the same effect, despite various dieticians having previously claimed carbohydrate-rich foods make us sleepy.

And despite how you might feel after accidentally eating a whole tub of ice cream, a packet of biscuits or a family-sized bar of chocolate, the study found that sugar actually doesn’t actually contribute to a food coma.

The researchers are yet to discover, however, why sleep helps us digest protein and salt, but it’s clear that’s what our bodies want to do.

“During the food coma, the flies remain still for a certain amount of time and they are much less responsive to any kind of other cues than they would normally be,” study author Dr. Robert Huber revealed to Science Daily.

“There's clearly something very potent about sleep itself,” he added.

So if you want to be on top form this afternoon, it’s perhaps wise to opt for a healthy veggie option for lunch.

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