JAN 01, 2016 12:58 PM PST

Let Hunger Be Your Guide

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet
The inaugural issue of the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research includes this information.

Potato chips, bacon, milk chocolate - all are examples convenient foods engineered for maximum tastiness. Widespread advertisements incessantly bombard consumers with the temptation to eat. People often eat when they're not hungry because tasty food is available all the time.

New research found that eating when not hungry leads to a higher rise in glucose levels than eating when hungry. The study was published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. 
Blood glucose levels tend to rise after a person consumes a meal with carbohydrates. However, an elevated blood glucose level is damaging to the body’s cells. So, in general, it’s healthier if the blood glucose levels rise by a relatively small amount. 

Cornell University scientists wanted to measure how a specific meal would impact a person’s health. The researchers, led by marketing professor David Gal, recruited 45 undergraduate students. They asked them to rate their level of hunger and then had the participants eat a meal rich in carbohydrates. After the meal, the researchers measured the participants’ blood glucose levels at regular intervals. 

The moderately hungry individuals had lower blood glucose levels after eating the meal than the individuals who were not particularly hungry. 

The data suggests that it’s healthier for individuals to eat when they are moderately hungry than when they are not hungry. We pretty much knew that already. Yet, so many people struggle with eating when they don’t need to. 

Previous research has established tips to help non-hungry people avoid eating. For instance, Cornell Food & Brand Lab Director Brian Wansink found that you eat what you see. If you see soda when you open the fridge, you are more likely to drink more of it than if the soda was placed behind another food. If you see Hershey Kisses in a clear dish, you are more likely to eat more of them than if the Kisses were placed in an opaque dish.

You are more likely to eat foods that are more convenient for you. So prepare your vegetables before putting them away, and beware of resealable snack packages.

There’s a mountain of more research showing ways to avoid eating food. For many people, it’s just a matter of implementing it.

Sources: Press release via Cornell Food & Brand Lab and EurekAlert!, New York Times, American Heart Association
About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
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