We’re all been there: you maybe enjoyed a big meal a little too much, to the point where you feel as though you need to unbutton your jeans…and maybe even unzip them a little. Whether it’s a dinner party or a Thanksgiving meal, everyone has experienced overeating at least once in their lifetime. So what are the long-term health effects of these bouts of overindulgence? The science is in, thanks to a new study.
There is already plenty of research that has explored the long term health effects of overeating in general, looking at increased fat storage, hormone control, and the changes in our fat tissue and skeletal muscle. However, there have no been many studies that looked at how one-off overeating affects the body.
The human body has the capability to handle overeating for extended periods of time. There is a traditional fattening festival held by the Massa tribe in Guru Walla, where each member of the tribe tries to gain as much weight as possible. Some members are able to gain up to 24 lbs of fat over two months by eating 8700 calories each day, which comes out to three times the recommended amount for an adult per day.
Though that is extreme, it proves that the body can handle overeating, even if that is not a good thing. Even 24 hours of overeating can cause increased elevated blood sugar concentrations.
In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers looked at how much food the human body can handle once being pushed past the feeling of fullness. It also looked at what the overall effect was on the body, and how this overeating affected the body’s metabolism in the hours following the meal.
After participants received large quantities of food and were asked to eat beyond the point of when they felt full, blood samples were taken at regular intervals for four hours after the start of the meal in order to see how the body handled it. Even though participants indulged in double the food, there was a just a small increase in blood fat and blood sugar levels.
The subjects were healthy and physically active adults, and the study found that their bodies were able to control the fat and sugar in the blood after the large meal through working a bit harder than normal in order to control the body’s metabolism.
Hormones released from the gut and pancreas helped their bodies regulate blood sugar levels. Since their heart rates increase post-meal, it showed that the body was working overtime to keep everything under control.