Depressing Study Says You’ll Be Hungry No Matter How Much You Eat

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Photo: Vico Collective/Alin Dragulin/Getty Images

It makes sense that you’ll be hungry if you’re cutting calories, but researchers from the University of Sheffield say there’s little evidence that hunger is linked to how much we eat. Meaning that even if you’re well-fed, you’ll still want more.

For a new analysis published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, the team looked at 462 studies that assessed calorie consumption and self-reported appetite. They found that while 225 studies (48.7 percent) demonstrated a link between hunger and calories consumed, the remaining 237 studies (51.3 percent) found no link.

Only 6 percent of the studies made a direct statistical comparison between appetite and calorie intake, meaning that in the other 94 percent of studies, the authors either didn’t do such an analysis or chose not to report it. Within this small group of papers, again, only half established a link between hunger and what people ate.

Lead author Bernard Corfe, Ph.D., told Vice that hunger is more complicated than we think. “The factors that drive calorie consumption are many-fold and include energy expenditure; the sensorial environment is potent with visual and olfactory triggers especially so; entrained behaviours like mealtimes or snacking; and so on,” he said. “Appetite is a part of that equation, but our work suggests it may not be the most important part, not by a long way.”

Corfe added in a release: “The food industry is littered with products which are marketed on the basis of their appetite-modifying properties. Whilst these claims may be true, they shouldn’t be extended to imply that energy intake will be reduced as a result.”

So, yes, smelling the pizza in the work kitchen can make you hungry even if you just had a Fiberlicious Protein MegaBar or, for the purists, a handful of almonds.