The tendency we all have to eat when we’re not hungry may lead to poorer health compared to eating only when we feel hungry, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.
The researchers at Cornell Brand & Food Lab show that when we are at least moderately hungry before eating a meal rich in carbohydrates, our blood glucose levels tend to remain more stable than they do when we eat on an already full stomach. When blood glucose levels rise too quickly, it triggers the body to store fat and may lead to sugar imbalance problems.
The findings have important implications for our modern world where our drive to eat is often based on flavor rather than hunger. As diabetes and obesity continue to rise, understanding that it’s not only calories that count, but the state that the body is in while we eat is of paramount importance.
In today’s world, we have a wide availability of convenient foods designed for maximum tastiness, such as potato chips, chocolates, and bacon double cheeseburgers. In this modern food environment and with widespread advertising, the average consumer is constantly being bombarded with the temptation to eat.
This means that, in contrast to people in traditional societies, those living in contemporary societies often eat not on account of hunger but because tasty food is readily available and calling us all hours of the day. Many times, we simply eat for fun or out of boredom.
The study involved 45 undergraduate students. The participants were first asked to rate their level of hunger and then to eat a meal rich in carbohydrates. To measure how the meal was impacting each participant’s health, their blood glucose levels were measured at regular intervals after they finished eating.
Blood glucose levels tend to rise after a meal containing carbohydrates and it is generally healthier if blood glucose levels rise by a relatively small amount as elevated blood glucose is damaging to the body’s cells.
The findings reveal that participants who were moderately hungry before the meal tended to have lower blood glucose levels after consuming the meal than individuals who were not particularly hungry before they started eating. The results suggest that it might be healthier for individuals to eat when they are moderately hungry than when they are not hungry.
Source: Cornell Food & Brand Lab