Bioethics Blogs

How Healthy Food Could Make You Fat

Overweight SaladHave you ever eaten a healthy meal, maybe some brown rice and stir-fried veggies, and found yourself ready for another meal just a short while later? Or, more often couldn’t overcome a hankering for a satisfying dessert to top off (and undermine the healthiness of) that meal?

As it turns out, this lack of satiety is not merely a function of the lack of calories in your entrée, but also reflects an unconscious connection between your perceptions of how healthy the meal is, and your hormonal response to said meal. That’s the bottom line of research conducted by Alia Crum, a researcher at Stanford University.

Crum presented people with vanilla milkshakes and convinced some people the shake was a no-fat, low-sugar health drink and others that it had enough sugar and fat to feed a large family. (Okay; slightly exaggerating.) She discovered that people eating the “healthy” milkshake (which, of course, was identical to the unhealthy one) experienced an elevation of a hormone called ghrelin, which slows metabolism and stimulates appetite. Those believing that the shake was unhealthy, on the other hand, experienced a drop in ghrelin, and thus were more satisfied.

Think about what this means for dieters. They eat healthy meals in hopes of losing weight and their damn bodies fight back, hoarding on to the calories they’ve consumed while, simultaneously, telling them they need to consume even more calories. (To read the rest of this article and leave comments, please visit Forbes.)

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.