Pizza: everyone with a soul loves it. Perfect for parties or just eating your feelings, there really is no other food we seem to enjoy in such massive quantities. The only problem any (lactose-tolerant) individual might run into with pizza is that of having too much of a good thing, given that it’s not exactly a superfood.
Based on a recent study from the University of Bath’s Centre for Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism, however, it would seem that the odd pizza binge doesn’t wreak as much havoc on the human body as one might expect.
A study of young, healthy men between the ages of 22 and 37 first asked participants to eat pizza until they were “comfortably full.” At a later point in time (once they’d worked up a healthy appetite again), they were asked to essentially stuff their faces with pizza until the point where any further bite might cause them to burst. Remarkably, the study found that “maximal eating” pushed participants to eat nearly twice as much pizza compared to stopping once they felt full, averaging more than 3,000 calories in the process.
More importantly, the study found that the body “copes remarkably well when faced with a massive and sudden calorie excess,” suggesting that healthy human bodies can adapt to a one-off binge without much in the way of serious short or long-term consequences.
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According to the study’s results, blood sugar levels were no higher after maximal eating, and blood lipids were only slightly elevated even though participants scarfed down about twice as much fat. Insulin did rise 50% above normal during the study, but this just means that the body was doing what it should to regulate its levels of blood sugar. If there were any negative consequences of this pizza fest, it’s that participants reported feeling tired and lethargic afterwards, proving that the food coma is a very real phenomenon.
That’s good news for those of us worried that one massive meal could have drastic consequences for our health or weight.
“Those tested in this study were able to efficiently use or store the nutrients they ingested during the pizza-eating challenge, such that the levels of sugar and fats in their blood were not much higher than when they ate half as much food,” said University of Bath Professor James Betts. “This study shows that if an otherwise healthy person overindulges occasionally, for example eating a large buffet meal or Christmas lunch, then there are no immediate negative consequences in terms of losing metabolic control."
So, yes. Routine overindulgence and consumption of far more calories than one can burn could lead to long-term health complications including obesity, type II diabetes, and heart disease. But if you went wild this past weekend and had a few slices too many, don’t sweat it. We all have enough to worry about right now without letting the occasional massive meal mess with our heads.
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