May 13th, 2012
Many, many, years ago, I asked my little daughter who was 5 or 6 at the time, why she couldn’t finish her vegetables but still very much wanted her dessert. She told me, “Poppy don’t you know that desserts go into a different stomach?”
Well, as it turns out, she wasn’t far from wrong. No, we don’t have two different stomachs, but researchers from Italy propose that our brains do react differently to foods that we love.
We have all eaten many meals where we are completely full, maybe even stuffed, and we can’t eat another bite of the main course, but still find room to eat some tempting treat or dessert.
These researchers explored how our bodies react when aroused by irresistible treats. They suggest that regardless of how full we are, our bodies are chemically predisposed to seek gratification from foods that we love.
They studied “hedonic hunger” (hunger that comes about due to the need for gratification as opposed to caloric deficit).
The study which was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism was small only involving 8 people, so therefore is preliminary but still very interesting and suggestive.
In the early history of man, a consistent source of food was not guaranteed and depending upon hunting conditions and weather, one could go for days without eating. So the need to overload on food when it was available, to protect against those times when it wasn’t, made sense. This is referred to as “homeostatic” hunger. (hunger that comes about when we need to protect and sustain our basic life functions.)
That is certainly not the case, in modern times, so why do we still overeat despite the fact that we are full and usually don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from? Is it possible that many of us eat “just for fun” (hedonistic hunger) and is this hunger caused by biochemical signals that are hard to resist?
The eight people studied were between the ages of 21-33. They were all healthy, not over-weight and free of any eating or dieting disorders.
The participants were fed healthy breakfasts. After an hour, they were asked how hungry they felt and were then presented with what they had previously told the researchers were their favorite food. They were not allowed to eat the food, just see and smell it. Later on, they were allowed to eat it.
The participants were then asked how hungry they were now, after being exposed to their favorite treat.
A month later, they went through the same test. They were fed the same breakfast. After an hour passed, the researchers asked them how hungry they were and then exposed them to a bland food combination that they were only allowed to see and smell. Later on, they were allowed to eat it.
Although the participants felt equally full after eating each of the two breakfasts, their desire, urge to eat and appetites were significantly higher after being exposed to their favorite treat as opposed to the bland food offering.
In addition, after eating their favorite food as compared to eating the bland food choice, the blood tests of each of these people revealed, that ghrelin, a hormone made in the stomach that is a signal of hunger, jumped significantly and remained high for 2 hours, but decreased after eating the bland food option.
In other words, seeing, smelling and eventually eating the “tempting treat” actually caused significant increases in hunger that continued for 2 hours.
The take-away from this study is: The mere presence of your favorite treats in your home can lead you to thinking about them and artificially increase your appetite and sense of hunger, even though you have previously eaten and consumed enough calories for your health and homeostatic hunger needs.
The solution is clear.
- DON’T STOCK YOUR SHELVES WITH YOUR FAVORITE TREATS! IF THEY ARE EASILY AVAILABLE YOU WILL THINK ABOUT THEM, EAT THEM, RAISE YOUR HUNGER LEVELS AND EAT MORE OF EVERYTHING ELSE…..CHANGE YOUR FOOD SHOPPING HABITS!
- DON’T USE THE EXCUSE I BUY THEM FOR THE KIDS OR YOUR HUSBAND, BECAUSE YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY NOT DOING THEM ANY FAVORS BY DOING SO!
- INDULGE IN YOUR FAVORITE TREATS OCCASSIONALLY AT A RESTAURANT NOT AT HOME!
If you want to lose weight, avoid developing type II diabetes, heart disease and possibly even cancer, follow this simple advice.
Personally, despite the fact that I am naturally slim, exercise regularly and a board certified clinical nutritionist, I have consistently seen drops in my total body fat percentage when I pay more attention to what I buy in the supermarket and what I allow to get into my kitchen pantry, despite what I may occasionally splurge on at restaurants.
Curt Hendrix M.S. C.C.N. C.N.S.