This just in: Don’t buy gro­ceries when hun­gry

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Science has spo­ken: En­ter a gro­cery store on an empty stom­ach at your peril. You are more likely to buy foods with a high calo­rie count than more healthy op­tions when you’re hun­gry, ac­cord­ing to the re­sults of a study pub­lished by JAMA In­ter­nal Medicine.

Even the jour­nal’s edi­tor con­cedes it’s a bit of shop­worn guid­ance. “I think all diet guides in­clude the ad­vice to ‘never go gro­cery shop­ping when you are hun­gry,’ ” be­gins an edi­tor’s note from Dr. Rita Red­berg.

The study used sim­u­lated shop­ping to com­pare pur­chases made by those who had eaten and oth­ers with an ap­petite. More candy, snacks and other high-calo­rie food went into the vir­tual shop­ping carts of those who had not eaten for five hours than par­tic­i­pants who snacked be­fore shop­ping. Re­searchers also tracked ac­tual gro­cery pur­chases by 80 study sub­jects dur­ing the hours af­ter lunch and around din­ner time. Shop­pers dur­ing the usual din­ner hours of 4 to 7 p.m. also bought more high-calo­rie food.

“Even short-term food de­pri­va­tion can lead to a shift in choices such that peo­ple choose less low-calo­rie, and rel­a­tively more high-calo­rie, food op­tions,” wrote Aner Tal and Brian Wansink of Cor­nell Univer­sity.

For Tal, a re­search as­so­ciate at the univer­sity’s food and brand lab, knowl­edge that a missed meal can un­der­mine good food choices does not equal im­mu­nity. He can stop at the gro­cery store on the way home from work. “I buy more pack­ages of chips and ice cream, and later I’m sur­prised how they end up there,” he says.


Per­haps some­one was too hun­gry when she went shop­ping?

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