Occasional binge-eating is not harmful, UK study says

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched a campaign against obesity

The bodies of young people who occasionally binge eat are able to tolerate the surplus calories and overindulgence, a study suggests.

Research carried out by the University of Bath found that the metabolism of young, healthy men were “surprisingly good” when they ate as much pizza as they could after feeling ‘full.’

Despite their normal calorie intake being doubled, with some volunteers consuming up to two and half large pizzas in one go, blood sugar levels were no higher than after a normal meal.

But experts said there were still risks in prolonged overeating.

Lead researcher Aaron Hengist said that while the long-term risks of eating too much are well known – for instance with obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease – immediate effects of ‘all you can eat’ places are less well known.

"Our findings show that the body actually copes remarkably well when faced with a massive and sudden calorie excess. Healthy humans can eat twice as much as 'full' and deal effectively with this huge initial energy surplus," he said.

The researchers said they planned to investigate whether similar effects are apparent in woman, overweight people and the elderly.

Professor James Betts, who oversaw the work, said the study showed “that our bodies are well adapted to an excessive delivery of dietary nutrients at one huge meal”.

"The main problem with overeating is that it adds more stored energy to our bodies (in the form of fat), which can culminate in obesity if you overeat day after day,” he said.

“However, 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."

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched a plan to combat obesity in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. He blames his hospitalisation from Covid-19 in part on him being overweight.