Recently researcher Alia Crum gave a group of subjects a drink called Sensishake, the label let them know that it was low-calorie with zero percent fat, zero added sugar, and 140 calories.
Another group of subjects were given a drink called Indulgence, the label let them know that it had high sugar, high fat, and 620 calories.
After they drank the shakes, the subject’s levels of ghrelin were measured. Ghrelin, often called the hunger hormone, works in the human gut. As levels of the hormone go up so do levels of hunger (to let us know that we need to find some food), meanwhile metabolism slows down (in case we’re in a situation where food is not available.)
The belief has been that ghrelin is secreted based on the nutrition one ingests. The subjects in this study fit that pattern, the ghrelin levels of the subjects who drank Indulgence dropped about three times more than the ghrelin levels of those who drank Sensishake.
Just one thing: Both groups actually drank the same thing – a regular old milkshake with 380 calories. The only difference between the groups of subjects was what they thought they were drinking.
Crum is clear that more studies need to be done before we fully understand the effects our beliefs have on our reactions to food, and of course she is right. There are people who eat tons of food and have small bodies, there are people who eat a small amount of food and have large bodies. We don’t know exactly how or why the way we feel about food can change the way we process it. We don’t know what effect a culture that is obsessed with talking about food and weight has on our bodies. There is a lot about the human body that we don’t understand. What we know for sure is that we don’t learn anything when people are sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling “IT’S THERMODYNAMICS FATTY!!!!”, and that we can’t say with any certainty that the size of our very complicated bodies can be manipulated using very simple math. It’s time to start asking questions and stop repeating tired tropes.
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