Your Body Can Adapt To An Occasional Dietary Splurge Interview with:
Dale Morrison, PhD
School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences
Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: The study was conducted using a model of overfeeding that is likely to be representative of a typical Western overeating diet, high in both carbohydrates and fats; as opposed to a predominantly high-fat diet model that is commonly used in the literature.

Our purpose was to examine which tissues are impaired first in response to overeating with a normal dietary composition. We initially hypothesized, based on earlier studies, that the liver would be impaired first by short-term overeating and then skeletal muscle (which soaks up much of the glucose following a meal) would be impaired much later with chronic overeating. However, we didn’t find this. The study found that the body copes with short periods of overeating with additional carbohydrates and makes adjustments by shifting metabolism towards utilizing these excess carbohydrates. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: We aren’t advocating that regular binge eating is ok. We speculate that from an evolutionary perspective, the body is able to occasionally withstand a few days of feasting without significant impairment, probably because it is preparing us for the next famine. Additionally, although the body adapts metabolism to utilize the excess carbohydrates in the short-term, after chronic overfeeding for a period of weeks the signs of impairment begin to show; albeit to a more modest extent than that seen with higher-fat diets. The issue nowadays is that food is always plentiful – so from a health perspective, short-term overeating is really best confined to infrequent special occasions, like during festivals and holidays. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Our participants were young and within a healthy weight range. It’s possible their bodies are better able to cope with the oversupply of food and it would be interesting to follow the study up in an older or overweight cohort to see to what extent more vulnerable populations are able to adapt, or if they are more susceptible more quickly to periods of caloric excess.


Dale J. Morrison, Greg M Kowalski, Clinton R Bruce, Glenn D. Wadley. Modest changes to glycemic regulation are sufficient to maintain glucose flux in healthy humans following overfeeding with a habitual macronutrient composition. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2019; DOI: 10.1152/ajpendo.00500.2018

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Apr 28, 2019 @ 1:31 pm

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