Leave it to Italian researchers to uncover science that suggests that regardless of how full we feel after a big meal, the human body may be hard-wired to chemically induce over-eating, because of the chemical reward we feel from certain kinds of foods.
The Italian researchers coined the term “hedonic hunger" from this small study involving 8 participants. And though only a few participated, the researchers believe the findings are profound. There was a clear link between overindulging and the “boost” researchers noted in two specific brain chemicals. To state it more simply – the brain says “eat more – I am liking this high – and I want more” despite the clear signals that you are really quite full. The Italian researchers actually believe that it’s an evolutionary development – we have been programmed to eat in order to have in times of famine. Add to that cheap, easily available food that literally woos us to eat it, again and again, and you now have the ultimate set up that primes us to overeat. In the past, humans needed to eat for fuel and to store up fuel stores in case of famine. The idea of eating purely for pleasure and fun is a more recent behavior and development.
The study itself involved 3 healthy men and 5 healthy women. None were overweight or obese, none had eating disorders. They ate a healthy balanced and satiating breakfast and then after an hour, were given a food they had designated as “highly desirable and tempting.” For 5 minutes they were allowed to smell it, see it and then rank how much they wanted it despite still being quite full. They were also asked how much of it they thought they would eat, despite being full. Second time around, a month later, they were presented with a far less appetizing item – plain bread and butter, that had a similar nutrient profile to the first treat. This time around, they ranked their desire or urge to eat, lower and said they would not eat too much if any of the less appealing treat.
Researchers measured ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger, after the consumption of the “desired treat” and the “less appealing treat” and noted that ghrelin remained quite high even two hours after consumption of the desired treat, meaning they would be stimulated to eat even more!! Ghrelin dropped pretty quickly after the less appetizing treat was consumed. So the initial interpretation is that despite feeling full, even so-called normal eaters could be tempted into further eating despite significant satiation. …Heck, isn’t that why we eat dessert when we are busting after a Thanksgiving meal??? As a nutritionist, I would go a step further. Eat dessert or tempting foods frequently enough, and they may prime even the strongest among us to override feeling full and indulge, and that behavior can become familiar and recurrent….Obesity anyone??
Do you identify personally with this study?
Published On: May 11, 2012