Eating when we are not hungry is bad for our health

December 30, 2015
Credit: Brian Wansink

With the wide availability of convenient foods engineered for maximum tastiness— such as potato chips, chocolates, and bacon double cheeseburgers— in the modern food environment and with widespread advertising, the contemporary consumer is incessantly being bombarded with the temptation to eat. This means that, in contrast to people in traditional societies, people in contemporary societies often eat not on account of hunger but because tasty food is available and beckoning at all hours of the day.

New research published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, found that the tendency of today's consumers to eat when they are not hungry might be less advantageous for health than eating when they are hungry.

The individuals participating in the study were 45 . The participants were first asked to rate their level of hunger and then to consume a meal rich in carbohydrates. To measure how the meal was impacting participants' health, participants' levels were measured at regular intervals after they consumed the meal. 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 because elevated blood glucose is damaging to the body's cells.

The results of the study showed that individuals who were moderately hungry before the meal tended to have lower after consuming the meal than individuals who were not particularly hungry before consuming the meal. These findings suggest that it might be healthier for individuals to eat when they are moderately hungry than when they are not hungry.

This article is published in the inaugural issue of the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research entitled "The Behavioral Science of Eating."

Explore further: Prevent type 2 diabetes blood-sugar spikes by eating more protein for breakfast

More information: Gal, David (2016). Let Hunger Be Your Guide? Being Hungry Before a Meal is Associated with Healthier Levels of Post-Meal Blood Glucose. The Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 1. 

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