Why Drinking Alcohol Makes You So Hungry

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Have you ever knocked back a few cold beers only to be left salivating for some salty french fries or a hot slice of pepperoni pizza? Whatever your adult beverage of choice is, you can blame science for your grumbling stomach the next time you’re out drinking.

According to a 2017 study by the Francis Crick Institute, consuming alcohol does have a direct effect on your hunger levels. Over the course of two years, scientists studied the effect of ethanol alcohol on the body, brain and actions of mice, with the results lending a useful insight into why we get the munchies.

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The experiment consisted of giving mice between 1.5 to two bottles of wine over a three-day period. Interestingly, the alcohol caused AgRP neurons located in the hypothalamus to become increasingly active. Though the mice experienced an increased appetite, their metabolism and energy levels dropped.

“Our study clearly shows that the main area of the brain responsible for eating (the hypothalamus and its AgRP neurons) is directly affected and excited by ethanol, and that mice respond very strongly to its exposure by overeating for several hours afterward,” the co-authors of the study explained.

After repeating the study but blocking the AgRP neuron signals, the scientists found that the mice ate less. Ultimately, those AgRP neurons may be the culprit behind binge eating after binge drinking.

These results suggests that the more you drink, the more you will crave food (not exactly news to someone like me). What is important is to avoid binge drinking, which the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines as a pattern of behavior that boosts blood alcohol concentration above .08 grams per deciliter.

The authors caution against binge drinking in order to avoid one of the dangerous effects of binge eating: obesity.

“Binge drinking and obesity are typically thought of as two separate societal problems, but why does this happen all over the world and what is making us do this? It is too easy to believe that one cannot lead to the other, and that this correlation does not involve the brain somehow,” the authors wrote.

Plus, alcohol has a pretty high caloric content, too.

So the next time you’re out at the bar or club, make sure to keep track of how many drinks you have. Those two-for-one specials can lead to some serious consequences for your waistline if you’re not careful.