Though people often consider overeating to be a personal choice, scientists are discovering that overindulgence is much more complicated than that. Sometimes people may not even be aware that they are eating foods that make it more likely for them to binge later in the day. A new study conducted by scientists at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital has shown that high glycemic index meals can result in food cravings, even if they taste similar to meals with a low glycemic index.
The glycemic index measures how quickly a person’s blood sugar level rises after eating a particular food. Foods with a low glycemic index such as beans, seeds, and vegetables, release glucose at a slower and steadier rate which is better for the body than the rapid rise and falls of blood sugar after eating foods with a high glycemic index such as white bread, white rice and potatoes.
As part of the study, the test subjects had to be overweight, with their body mass index equaling or exceeding 25 percent. They were given one of two vanilla milkshakes: one that had a significant amount of light corn syrup to increase the glycemic index, and another version that was much lower in sugar.
The twelve participants were asked to rate the palatability of the milkshake from “not at all tasty” to “extremely tasty” with the average participant ranking both milkshakes as moderately tasty without a clear preference for either the low or high glycemic index version. They were also asked to rate their hunger from “not hungry at all” to “extremely hungry” throughout the study.
Though the vanilla milkshakes tasted very similar, the participants who had consumed the high glycemic index meal experienced significantly higher blood sugar levels during the subsequent two and a half hours. After that, however, their blood sugar levels dropped below that of the participants who had consumed the low glycemic index meal. Understandably, the participants who had the high glycemic index milkshake reported feeling hungrier as time progressed, even when their blood sugar levels were higher than that of the other group’s. This study shows that these spikes and dips in blood sugar levels can lead to extreme hunger, which can facilitate overeating
This is especially important for people with diabetes who must watch their carbohydrate intake. Though foods with a lower glycemic index may contain the same amount of carbs as those with a high glycemic index, lower glycemic index foods may help prevent overeating by keeping blood glucose levels stable over time.