Hunger is the most natural of human instincts – it’s what reminds us to fuel our bodies. The problem is that it can be easy to forget to check with your body to see if you’re hungry before eating.
That might be a good skill to practice, though, as choosing to eat when you’re not hungry can have a big impact on your blood sugar levels. This was among the findings of a recent study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.
In the study, University of Illinois at Chicago researchers asked 45 study participants their level of hunger before they ate a provided meal. Participants’ blood sugar levels were then tested after they ate. The study found that participants who ate a meal of carbohydrates when they were not hungry had much higher blood sugar levels than those who were moderately hungry when they ate.
This means that eating when you’re not hungry can play havoc with your blood sugar levels. If a person with diabetes eats before he or she is hungry, it can cause a spike in already elevated blood sugar levels, and make blood sugar control the rest of the day that much more difficult.
Of course, it should be noted that people with diabetes sometimes have to eat when they aren’t hungry to stave off low blood sugar levels or to avoid possible side effects from certain medications. Even then, it’s best to eat in moderation to avoid consuming more than is necessary.
Eating when we’re hungry now may also lessen the chances of overeating in the future, according to a University of Pennsylvania study reported on by NPR. Pharmacology professor Teresa Reyes found in her research that obese mice had altered neuron pathways in the part of the brain that informs the body about the rewards of food. The brain adapted to the pleasure stimuli of eating an excessive amount of food, making it more likely the mice would chronically overeat.
Being aware of your body’s natural hunger signals can be a step towards getting blood sugar levels under control, and it can certainly help with maintaining or achieving a healthy weight. Many of us get out of practice at listening to our bodies about our hunger levels, but the skill can be reaquired with practice in most cases.
And every day is another opportunity to practice.