Learning to Eat Only When Hungry Improves Health

This study investigated whether blood glucose and metabolic risk factors could be reduced by eating only after recognizing the sensation of hunger. Blood glucose levels in individuals who were trained to recognize hunger were compared to those in untrained individuals. Results suggest that blood sugar levels are reduced in individuals who consume meals only after recognizing hunger, especially in those who have high blood glucose. The participants of this study were trained for seven weeks, and the study was completed in five months.

Maintaining low blood glucose levels is very important in the control of diabetes. In addition to diet control, modification of meal patterns could be useful in lowering blood glucose levels. Hunger is a subjective sensation, which modulates a person’s food intake. People can recognize hunger sensations and usually have low energy levels when they are hungry. According to the authors, initial hunger meal pattern (IHMP) is defined as “a person’s ability to adjust food intake to times of initial hunger sensation before meals three times a day.” The researchers sought to determine whether training participants in IHMP influenced their blood glucose levels. blood glucose measurements were used to determine if the quantity of food intake at the previous meal increased or decreased.

* The study included 120 subjects, aged between 16 and 60 years. Of these, 89 were trained in IHMP. Their food intake was delayed until they felt the sensation of hunger. Their blood glucose levels were measured before the meals were taken.
* The remaining 31 subjects were included in the control group and did not follow IHMP. They were instructed to maintain their usual meal patterns. Their mean blood glucose levels were also measured.
* The control group and trained group were subdivided into the “High Blood Glucose” group (HBG) with mean blood glucose levels measuring more than 81.8 mg/dL and the “Low Blood Glucose” group (LBG) with mean blood glucose levels less than 81.8 mg/dL.
* After five months, the control group and the trained group were assessed and compared for their blood glucose levels over time, insulin sensitivity, beta cell function, blood glucose and insulin concentration during the “glucose tolerance test,” and glycogenated hemoglobin.
* The extent of nutrient absorption and cardiovascular status was assessed by measuring blood pressure, cholesterol ratio and triglycerides.

* People with high blood glucose significantly decreased their mean blood sugar levels with training. Training, however, did not change blood sugar levels in people with low blood glucose.  People who received no training saw no change in their blood sugar levels. It didn’t matter if they belonged in the high or low blood glucose groups.
* In the trained high blood glucose group, insulin resistance decreased, while insulin sensitivity increased.
* There was no variation in the well-being, nutrition and cardiovascular status in people with low blood glucose whether or not they received training.
* In the trained high blood glucose group, there was a significant decrease in the diastolic blood pressure and cholesterol ratio, in comparison to the control high blood glucose group. Nutrient delivery to the body tissues was better in the trained group than in the control group.

Shortcomings/Next steps
This study was conducted only on clinically healthy subjects. The adaptation of IHMP in patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes  may lead to irregular or delayed meal patterns, which contradict with the present goal of maintaining a constant time for daily meals. Furthermore, since these patients do not feel hunger, following IHMP may result in insufficient food intake.

This study suggests it may be possible prevent or control diabetes by ensuring that food is consumed only after the sensation of hunger. Hunger is an important mechanism the body uses to obtain energy. Food intake during hunger helped to minimize mean BG levels and increased the nutrient absorption in high blood glucose subjects. It also improved the overall health, apart from providing cardiovascular benefits. Furthermore, IHMP can be recommended for non-insulin dependent diabetic patients to control diabetes.

For More Information:
Differences in Maintenance of Mean Blood Glucose (BG) and their Association with Response to “Recognizing Hunger”
Publication Journal: International Journal of General Medicine, May 2011
By Mario Ciampolini; Massimiliano Sifone; The Università di Firenze, Florence, Italy


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