Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Monday, 6 July 2015

This Is The Scientific Reason You Binge On Food After Drinking

This Is The Scientific Reason You Binge On Food After Drinking

The Debrief: Science says alcohol's control of your body will turn you into a late-night post-booze gorger...

It’s all too easy to think that alcohol is the ultimate disinhibitor, that it unlocks our natural states, turning us from abstemious, upstanding citizens into the loutish, carnal beasts that we all are inside. That premise has definitely itched through our hungover heads on a Sunday morning when we’ve woken up with a £15 McDonald’s receipt in our bra.

But new scientific research shows that it’s not US who throw caution to the wind and binge on food because we’re drunk and we’ve let our guard slip. It’s actually a side effect of alcohol.

Scientists rigged 35 female volunteers to an IV drip containing alcohol. They then had their eating habits noted by researchers and brain functions analysed via MRI scans. The result was that, yes, the test subjects were loads more hungry after the alcohol went into their system.

Which is as mind-thuddlingly obvious as that hangover you had that time after eating that McDonald’s.

But the science is intriguing. In the report, titled The apéritif effect, the enjoyment of food was due to the hypothalamus (a gland near the brain that regulates your metabolism – ie the speed at which you digest food and burn off fat) responding to the aroma of food in a really positive way. Just FYI the guinea pigs were also rigged to non-alcoholic drips in a placebo control test to see whether their enjoyment of food might have just been to do with the day going on or the potential that being strapped up to a drip causes people to eat more. Turns out that being strapped up to a drip didn’t make people hungrier unless it was getting them a little bit pissed.

The overall result is that yes, we get hungry when we’re drunk (drungry, anyone?) but that it’s not because we’re normally just holding all our hunger in. It’s because alcohol – for all of its calories – makes us hungrier still!

Researcher William Elier, who was behind the study published in our new favourite journal, Obesity, explained: ‘Our study found that alcohol exposure can both increase the brain's sensitivity to external food cues, like aromas, and result in greater food consumption.’

‘Many alcoholic beverages already include empty calories, and when you combine those calories with the apéritif effect, it can lead to energy imbalance and possibly weight gain.’

The root of the problem then, isn’t that we’re all inwardly obese, trying to stave off our hunger pangs that shine through after a wine or two, but that booze acts of its own accord to turn our bodies against us. Oh.

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Tags: Food, Boozing, Science Says