Eating When Not Hungry Can Cause Blood Sugar Spike
Holiday time will likely inspire a fair amount of eating when you’re not hungry. After all, how can you pass on that decadent chocolate cake or fresh baked piece of pumpkin pie? A new study suggests that if you eat when you’re not hungry, it can drive up blood sugar levels.
Every time you eat your body is flooded with a surge of nutrients – protein, fats and carbohydrates or sugars. Your body then secretes several hormones to remove those nutrients from your blood stream and put them to work in your body, or it stores excess calories for later use. Blood sugar in particular normally surges after meals, and some of these hormones dampen the effect.
A recent discovery is that sugar spikes associated with feedings when you’re not hungry, tend to be sharper (higher) compared to spikes generated when eating the same amount of calories when you are truly hungry. These sharper spikes suggest that your body is somehow not adequately prepared to handle intake of calories when true hunger signals did not instigate the feeding.
This was a small unique study so more research is needed, but take a moment to think about all the grazing you do during the holiday season, when faced with temptations at home, at work, and in social situations. Add to that the fact that many of these foods are quite high in refined sugars, which will likely cause even higher blood sugar spikes.
This research seems to be supported by other studies that suggest that long periods of not eating, like while we sleep, are necessary in order to help use up glycogen stores. Once glycogen stores are used up the body can dip into fat and burn it for energy. This theory was put to the test in a recent study that looked at a thirteen hour overnight fast as a means of reducing breast cancer recurrence. Subjects who fasted for less than thirteen hours had higher levels of HBA1c (a test that measures a three month average of blood sugar levels), compared to subjects who ate dinner early and did not eat until thirteen hours later the next morning. The researchers postulated that the longer fast allowed for better glycemic control and deeper sleep, which can also help to limit excess food consumption the next day. We know that sleep deprivation seems to encourage a heartier appetite and may instigate eating when you’re not hungry.
Despite the need for further research, it seems to be a good idea to be aware of hunger signals and to only eat when you are truly hungry. Parents need to be especially careful to not nudge their kids to eat or clean their plate. It’s important to remember that kids are born with hunger and satiation signals. So allow them to signal when they are hungry and when they are full.