If you are waiting for a table at a restaurant and decide to order a drink or two from the bar before eating, you might be doing yourself a disservice.
In the July issue of the journal Obesity, a study finds that drinking alcohol before eating leads to the “aperitif effect,” where people feel hungrier while slightly intoxicated.
The study suggests that alcohol makes a part of the brain called the hypothalamus particularly focused on the smells of food. The hypothalamus is in charge of operating various functions, including hunger.
Robert Considine, a professor from Indiana University’s School of Medicine and one of the researchers for the study, says that MRI scans reveal that when it is affected by alcohol, the hypothalamus seems to focus more on food. “The joke is, every restaurant knows that if they give you a drink first, you'll eat more,” Considine told Health Day.
But it seems that enjoying an alcoholic beverage with a meal does not lead to overeating. Martin Binks, an obesity researcher unaffiliated with the study, polled a study group and found that some of them ate a little more, but not by much. One-third of the group actually ate less, and all weighed in the normal-weight range. “What's important about this study is that it speaks to the complexity of appetite regulation,” Binks said. “There are hundreds of influences on eating behavior, and [alcohol intake] is one of them.”