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6 Things That Affect Your Appetite For Food

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Man staring at food

Nutrition experts say the best way to deal with our hunger and overall appetite is to follow the natural signals our bodies gives off. After all, the true driving force behind what makes anyone want to eat is the complex interaction between the body and the brain.

Appetite and hunger are sometimes viewed as one and the same, even though they’re very different in their definitions. It’s possible to have an appetite without being hungry, as evidenced by all those times you wanted to eat something (e.g. a piece of chocolate cake) after a big meal despite being full.

Your physical and psychological environments affect appetite and hunger, sometimes leading you to eat more or less than your body demands. There are many factors that influence your desire to eat, and the following are six of the most notable ones:

Leptin Production

Leptin is a hormone that acts on the hypothalamus, the brain’s hunger center, to regulate your appetite, essentially making it the hunger off switch. It is produced by fat cells, so the more fat your fat cells contain, the more leptin they produce and the less of an appetite you have.

Habitual eating patterns affect leptin production in a very interesting and counterintuitive way. If you consistently overeat, your fat cells actually reduce leptin production to accommodate your preferred eating patterns, allowing your appetite to remain large even as you get fatter.

Your body also decreases leptin levels when you lose weight, increasing your appetite. Basically, by exercising regularly, you can eat as much as your appetite demands without getting fat.

Climate

Did you know that you’re more likely to feel hungry in colder weather than in warmer ones, as well as crave higher-calorie dishes? Just think about the food that tempt you in the winter — stews, roasts, thick soups — and those you find appetizing on hot summer days — salads, chilled fruit, and sandwiches. Coincidence? We don’t think so…

Scientists believe shivering or just being cold in general can increase your metabolic rate as much as five fold, potentially providing a healthy and sustainable alternative way to burn energy and, thus calories.

Guess what? Food provides calories and fat that your body burns to keep you warm and moving. To help ensure enough warmth is provided, you processes food faster when in a cold environment, emptying your stomach quicker and feeling hungry more often.

Exercising

Healthy eating and exercise generally go hand-in-hand, and people who exercise regularly tend to have a healthy appetite. Have you ever noticed how you’re rarely hungry immediately after exercising? Well, that’s because physical activity pulls stored energy (i.e. glucose and fatty acids) out of body tissues and into the bloodstream, giving of the feeling of satiation.

Exercise, both physical and mental, also empties your stomach more slowly and slows the passage of food through the digestive tract, making you feel fuller longer. Moreover, it reduces anxiety and, thus, the desire to reach for something to munch on.

This is why eating a heavy meal right before heading for the gym or the stationary bike in your bedroom sometimes causes you to have cramps or heartburn — your stomach is stuffed with food that isn’t being digested quickly.

Sickness and Injury

Severe physical stress or trauma, such as a broken bone, surgery, a burn and a high fever, reduces appetite and slows the natural contractions of the intestinal tract.

When you become sick or get injured, your brain chemistry changes as the production of chemicals called cytokines increases. Cytokines can drive down your appetite to help conserve energy for fighting off short-term ailments, energy that would otherwise be used for digesting food.

Eating under such conditions can stretch your bowel enough to tear it and even cause food to back up in your gut, which is why intravenous feeding — that’s, getting nutrients via fluids injected into a vein — is one method doctors and nutritionists during the healing process.

Medicinal Side-Effects

Some drugs used to treat common health conditions affect appetite. Such a side effect is rarely mentioned by doctors when they prescribe a drug, perhaps because it isn’t life-threatening and usually goes away once you stop taking the drug.

Examples of drugs that increase appetite include certain antidepressants (mood elevators), antihistamines (allergy pills), diuretics (make you urinate more frequently), steroids (fight inflammation), and tranquilizers (calming drugs).

Appetite reducers, on the other hand, include some antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, anti-seizure drugs, blood pressure medications, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The fact that a drug affects appetite is almost never a reason to avoid using it. However, knowing that a relationship exists between the drug and your desire for food can be helpful. Always ask your doctor and pharmacist about possible drug-appetite interactions when given drug.

Social Factors

The amount of calories consumed by the average person has increased significantly in just the span of 30 years largely because of increases in portion sizes in restaurant menu items and packaged foods. The substantial decrease in the cost of producing food combined with intense competition among food businesses means we are constantly bombarded with commercial advertising for food.

Our appetites have been inflated as a result of these influences and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. In fact, studies have shown that the amount of food we consume has a strong positive correlation with the accessibility of food, how much food is put in front of us, and social pressure to eat more.

The impact of social factors on appetite cannot be denied.

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Diet & Health

Here’s What The Future Of Food Could Look Like

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Food Sensor Chip on Teeth

Devices like tooth sensors that measure sugar and alcohol intake, as well as monitor other health qualities, could revolutionize the food industry as we know it.

From new technologies detecting specific ingredients and allergens in food to the expansion of cell-cultured meat, the list of emerging technologies that help consumers understand what they are eating grows by the day.

According Max Elder, a researcher at the Institute for the Future’s Food Futures Lab, “the future is already here, and it’s about time the food industry faced it head first.

Elder believes that for Consumer packaged goods companies to prepare for new challenges, they will need to “work backwards” to come up with strategies for creating the industry they want.

Computer Circuit Chip Apple Fruit

The Future Of Food Technology

Too many of today’s packaged foods are filled with empty calories, and people are no longer able to rely on their five senses to get accurate information about what they’re eating. Products labels have traditionally been relied upon to provide said information, but they could be misleading and are often difficult to understand.

In fact, a 2018 study by the Center for Food Integrity also found that only 33% of survey respondents “strongly agree” that they are confident in the safety of the food they consume. Such a high level of distrust has prompted the development of a new suite of technologies that help consumers make better-informed decisions about their food, “radical” technologies that Elder says will likely be widespread over the next decade.

Examples of such devices include an ingestible sensor being by Carnegie Mellon University that monitors gastrointestinal health and a tiny tooth sensor from Tufts University that can measure glucose, sugar and alcohol intake.

But before sensors in guts or on teeth become ubiquitous, Elder said they will likely be situated outside the body. Chinese search engine company Baidu, for instance, has developed smart chopsticks that can detect the freshness of cooking oil.

Those suffering from celiac disease will find Nima especially useful. Nima is a small portable machine that uses a sensor to test for trace amounts of gluten when crumbs are placed into it, and the namesake company behind its creation is developing variants of the technology for other allergens, including peanuts and shellfish.

While the food knowledge consumer can gain from such new technology could pose a challenge to food companies, but it is also an opportunity for brands to get more information on what eaters want and tailor their products, services and communication accordingly.

Slab of red meat

More Sustainable, Humane Meat

We can’t talk about the future of food without mention of the lab-grown meat industry, which has the potential to expand despite regulatory setbacks.

There has been a rapidly growing movement towards and major investment in exploring more cellular food systems, and while it’s too early to know if cultured meat is as healthy or nutritious as conventionally-produced meat, the segment could potentially be a major part of the food of the future.

According to Paul Shapiro Author of Clean Meat and former vice president for The Humane Society of the United States, clean meat is better for the environment than raising and slaughtering animals, whether conventional, grass-fed or free-range. Instead pouring tons of resources into raising an entire animal that won’t be eaten in its entirety — horns, eyeballs, hooves, brains, etc. all go to waste — growing meat in a lab only results in the parts and calories consumers need.

The lab-grown meat industry is still in its infancy and the market is small, meaning cell-cultured meat commands a price premium over conventional meat. However, if the industry can eventually achieve price parity, the only issue it will have to contend with is how comfortable consumers are with eating meat produced in a lab.

Traditional Farming

Meeting Environmental Values

There has been a growing demand for transparency in the food industry, and many consumers desire to know what is in their food and actively look for ecolabels that align to their values (Fair Trade, Non-GMO, etc.). An increasing number of individuals are also reading the label to look for names they recognize and trust before they make a purchase.

That’s to say companies will have to cater to consumer’s environmental values more so than ever but must do so with caution. Not fully understanding the environmental impact of new types of food production could lead to some companies making claims they may not be able to hold up.

Like everything in life, the food industry is undergoing a transformation, and most certainly for the better. The future looks promising for the health- and environmentally-conscious consumer.

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Diet & Health

Science Has Found The Best Way To Wash Pesticides Off Apples

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Apple on tree

Polishing an apple with your shirt might get rid of some dust and dirt, but removing the pesticides will require a little more work.

New research has found that washing apples with baking soda, the common yet miraculous household product, could be all you need to eliminate most of the residues on the surface of apples and other fruits.

Pesticides have long been used to increase crop yield, but rising concerns over their adverse effect on human health has many people talking. While the exact effects depend on the type of pesticides and the amount eaten, the World Health Organization says that certain pesticides could harm the developing nervous systems of fetuses and children.

A growing number of people have opted for organic food as way of avoiding the chemicals, but organic food usually command a price premium and there is no guarantee that pesticides were used. In fact, the organic, naturally-occurring pesticides that some organic farms use aren’t necessarily safer.

Washing has been and remains the standard practice used by both consumers and the food industry to remove pesticides, but some of the plant-protecting compounds that get absorbed by the skin of fruits and vegetables might be more resilient to current cleaning methods. To find the best method, Lili He, Assistant Professor at the ‎University of Massachusetts Amherst, and colleagues conducted a study in which they applied two common pesticides — the fungicide thiabendazole, which past research has shown can penetrate apple peels, and the insecticide phosmet — to organic Gala apples and then washed apples with three different liquids: tap water, a 1 percent baking soda/water solution, and a U.S.-EPA-approved commercial bleach solution often used on produce.

The baking soda solution proved the most effective at removing pesticides, eliminating 80 percent of the thiabendazole and 96 percent of the phosmet, respectively, after 12 and 15 minutes of the fruits being soaked. Plain tap water and the bleach solution were far less effective.

The different percentages are likely due to thiabendezole’s greater absorption into the apple. Mapping images showed that thiabendazole had penetrated up to 80 micrometers deep into the apples, while phosmet was detected at a depth of only 20 micrometers.

So, there you have it, if washing is your preferred method of removing pesticides off your fruits and vegetables, using a baking soda solution is the way to go. If all other options are to be considered, then peeling your produce is probably your best bet.

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Diet & Health

You Binge Eat Because You’re Sleep-Deprived

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Woman caught eating food

There have been many studies correlating sleep deprivation with a wide range of health risks, including decrease in alertness and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. But what about a possible link with food cravings?

Researchers have long known that lack of sleep is associated with binge eating or just plain eating uncontrollably whenever and wherever, but a new study published in online journal Sleep suggests that the same chemical mechanism behind the munchies might be why sleep-deprived people not only feel hungrier, but also become buckle in the face of a big chocolate bar.

The study involved 14 volunteers aged 18 to 30, all of whom were first given four nights of either normal (8.5 hours) or interrupted sleep (4.5 hours) and then two meals and unrestricted access to all kind of snacks — both healthy (e.g., fruit and yogurt) and less-healthy options (e.g., chips and cake).

When the researchers monitored their endocannabinoid (eCB) levels, they found that those participants who had been sleep-deprived reported feeling hungrier and tended to eat the less-healthy snacks.

Moreover, they eat nearly double the fat and protein of the well-rested participants and exhibited an exaggerated cycle in their endocannabinoid levels, with an especially high level in the afternoon — around the same time they reported feeling the hungriest.

Endocannabinoids are chemicals that our bodies naturally create to play a part in such physiological processes as appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. They also to activate the same receptors that get people high from consuming marijuana, explaining the temptation for food stemming from sleep deprivation.

Have you ever felt so tired as to almost feel high? Well, this might be the reason…

Scientists hope these findings will lead to further scientific discoveries on food cravings that would aid in the treatment and control of binge eating.

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