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First Foods Most

After Fasting: Starches Are Eaten First and Vegetables Last

After Fasting: Starches Are Eaten First and Vegetables Last

After fasting people are more likely to eat starches first, and whatever type of food a person eats first they eat the most of

Hospital cafeterias can encourage patients who have been fasting to first eat fruits and vegetables to help them avoid overeating starches

To encourage people to eat fruits and vegetables, make them more attractive and convenient so people eat them first

After fasting, avoid high-calorie items to reduce the risk of calorie overload

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Wansink, Brian and Aner Tal (2012). First Foods Most: After 18-Hour Fast, People Drawn to Starches First and Vegetables Last. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(12), 961-963. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1278

First Foods Most, Tal, Archives of Internal Medicine, 2012, fasting, food deprivation, overeating starches, Food and Brand Lab, Cornell University, Brian Wansink

Food deprivation is something many people face at least once in their lives. Fasting for political or religious reasons, abstaining from food and drink prior to a medical procedure or working long shifts without a meal break are all part of common human experience. But what are the effects of food deprivation on subsequent eating patterns? Previous studies have examined how many calories are consumed after a period of fasting. A recent study by Cornell University Professor Brian Wansink and post-doctoral research associates Aner Tal and Mitsuru Shimizu extended this line of inquiry by looking at fasters' food choices as well as their caloric intake.

This research team planned 12 lunches on 12 different days and invited Cornell students to attend. Each lunch attracted 10-12 students, totaling 128 study participants. Half the participants were instructed to fast for 18 hours beforehand while the other half were not. All the lunches featured a buffet with bread rolls, French fries, chicken, cheese, carrots and green beans. Hidden scales and cameras recorded the amount of each food item participants ate and the order in which they were consumed.

The 18-hour fasters went straight for the more caloric starches and proteins. Bread, fries, chicken and cheese were eaten first by 76% of the fasters compared to only 49% of the non-fasters. Vegetables were favored as the first food by more of the non-fasters: 51% non-fasters ate carrots and beans first, versus 24% of the fasters. Curiously, non-fasters and fasters alike fell into the same eating pattern: whichever food group they ate from first, they ended up eating more of it than the people who started their meal with a different food group.

What do these findings mean? For hospital cafeterias serving patients who haven't eaten for 18 hours or more - encourage patients to first eat lower-calorie fruits and vegetables. Make fruits and vegetables more attractive and more convenient, or include them in a combination meal. For meal skippers, be aware that even mild food deprivation can affect your food choices. Avoid 'breaking your fast' with high-calorie items to reduce the risk of calorie overload.

Article Summary by Joanna Ladzinski and Julia Hastings-Black