Alcohol stimulates the appetite?
Every time you drink, a craving for pizza wakes up?
Many people remember the great pleasure of having a meal in the middle of the night, after a long evening in a bar. Is it the effect of alcohol, fatigue or the unusual hour? The Rumour Detector and the OSS spent a night on this.
A good part of the difficulty in establishing whether alcohol does in fact stimulate the appetite is that you first have to ask yourself what type of alcohol you are talking about. More or less sweet? More or less concentrated? Either of these aspects can inhibit or stimulate the appetite. To this must be added the person's history: if they are used to associating red wine with a good meal, they may be predisposed to eat while drinking; if champagne is associated with a special occasion, such as the New Year, she may not be inclined to want to eat at the same time.
A number of studies have attempted to verify whether alcohol is indeed an orexigenic, the medical term for any substance capable of increasing appetite. The methods used by these researchers vary from study to study, but their central idea is the same. Participants are given a beverage, alcoholic or not, and the calories consumed at the subsequent meal are observed, the hunger that these participants report before, during and after the meal, as well as their satisfaction and satiety.
< p>The best studies on this subject try to ensure that their participants don't know whether they received an alcoholic beverage or not, but for obvious reasons, this presents a challenge. The most common strategy seems to be to compare a non-alcoholic beer to the same beer that has had ethanol added, so that they taste similar.
Bottom line: There is good science showing that drinking alcohol increases hunger, but only after you've started eating. In studies where participants are asked to rate their hunger throughout the experiment, researchers report that appetite is rated “up” after the start of the meal and following alcohol consumption. On the other hand, the appetite does not increase after drinking alcohol, but before starting the meal. In other words, alcohol would not increase the feeling of being hungry in general, but would increase it once one has started eating.
That said, the effects of alcohol seem be complex and variable. For example, a 2001 study of 14 people suggested that alcohol inhibited the secretion of leptin, a hormone partly responsible for inhibiting hunger. Conversely, another, in 2005, involving eight people, suggested that alcohol decreased the production of ghrelin, a stomach hormone called the “hunger hormone” because it stimulates appetite. .
One thing seems certain, calories from ethanol do not give the same feeling of satiety as calories derived from carbohydrates, fats or proteins. This is the reason why several studies show that people do not change their eating habits despite the calories ingested via alcoholic beverages. These calories can therefore add up to the calories in our meals, which can lead to weight gain.
Among those who believe that alcohol makes you eat more, the simple explanation is that a good drink would break down our self-discipline. Several scientific studies have tried to test this hypothesis, to no avail. We can also quote the conclusion of this review article published in 2010: “the empirical data that the effects of alcohol depend on the status of inhibition are not strongly supported by the current literature. »
And what about the idea that alcohol makes food taste better? There is, in fact, a phenomenon called the appetizer effect: at the start of a meal, people say they are hungrier if they think the food tastes good. Does alcohol contribute to this phenomenon by improving the taste of food? Researchers have attempted to measure it, but in studies where cravings are measured, no difference is reported between the drinking group and the control group.
These studies on alcohol and appetite can be influenced — like all other research — by a host of other factors. Some studies, for example, report a positive correlation between body mass index or other measures of obesity and alcohol consumption. Others point out that high body mass indices are associated with both heavy and non-drinking of alcohol and report no association with moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages. Studies targeting women have even reported that high alcohol consumption was associated with reduced levels of body fat.
Finally, it is also possible whether the particular choice of drinks, the frequency of drinking, whether or not you drink heavily to the point of inebriation, or the quality of sleep or diet, have an influence on the results.
< h3 id="h-verdict">Verdict
Although it is tempting to point to alcohol as the culprit for our overly rich meals, and although some data points in this direction, the scientific literature has a hard time come to an agreement between the multiple factors involved.
This article is adapted from the English text by Ada McVean published on the website of theOrganization for Science and the McGill University Society and by the magazine Skeptical Inquirer.