Things that make you go "duh"

For my internship, I read a lot of news headlines- mainly those about science and medicine. Some of the studies are interesting, some not so much. Others? Just make me want to smack my head on the desk. This could quite possibly be one of the most logical conclusions ever to be reached by medical researchers:

Regular Meals Important for Health

Gee, ya think?

The study found that:

"People who eat at irregular times run a greater risk of developing insulin resistance and what is known as metabolic syndrome, according to a study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet."

It's very easy to skip breakfast, to grab something out of the vending machine at lunch, and then soldier on through until dinner...except you don't make it until dinner and end up dining with Ben and Jerry at a corner table in your kitchen. I think part of the problem is that eating meals--actual sit-down, cooked meals--is seen as a luxury. Frankly, your meals could be at a KFC and you would get the same benefit. The point it that you're making eating a priority and commitment. You are much more likely to get the wide variety of nutrients that your body needs.

I wrote my thesis on a mosquito-borne virus that was traveling around the world. One of the places it arrived at was Italy, where long, outdoor meals (in the early to mid autumn) were the norm. People were outside, with their goblets of red wine, and they got bit. (The real fault was the lack of a centralized mosquito control problem, but that's beside the point). You wouldn't see that here- not that enjoyment of food, the commitment to eating.

The other aspect that I think the research really speaks to is the ever-increasing dangers of a diet culture. Maybe the increases we're seeing in "metabolic syndrome" are from years of dieting and erratic eating. Maybe dieting isn't really an effective way to lose weight. And maybe we're confusing cause and effect.

From the press release:

"The participants that said that they rarely ate a regular breakfast, lunch and dinner had, on average, a larger waist size and more blood lipid disorders than people who ate more regularly. They also tended to exhibit more signs of insulin resistance, which is thought to be an underlying cause of metabolic syndrome. The scientists believe that the results can help to improve dietary advice regarding the prevention or treatment of metabolic syndrome."

Perhaps because when you binge after not eating for a long period, items that are both readily available (I don't think people generally think, "Hey honey! How's about I make a souffle?" at 6pm when they haven't eaten all day) and high in sugar and fats. It's ready energy. It's "feel good food." It can cause your blood sugar to spike...and then plunge.

Some dieters might eat "regularly" during the diet (however unhealthy the total number of calories), but then overcompensate after they've lost the weight. Every diet has an equal and opposite binge. Could something similar be going on here?

The point is this: eat regularly. Enjoy your food. It's not a luxury. It's a necessity.

posted under , , |


grey said...

Carrie --

I have contemplated MANY times starting a weekly "they seriously published this!?" journal article roundup... because there are so many useless studies out there! Things like "children of depressed mothers and fathers with depressed older siblings have higher rates of depression." Oh, one of my favorites is: "Eating Disorders: Risk Varies By Age And Gender" Please tell me that very little money was devoted to that study....

Anyway, you must have a great internship if reading all these articles is in your job description!

Carrie Arnold said...

No kidding! I tend to write about the more geeky, technical articles (none of which are about food or mental health), so I get to save the real zingers for this blog. :)

Beth said...

Although I didn't have to read a lot of journal articles this year for my job, I did have to read a lot of newspaper headlines and articles about scientific or medical studies, and literally every day there were at least 2 newspaper headlines or articles that just made me want to cringe or throw something at the computer because it was either a) completely obvious or b) the headline did not match the article or results of the study at all. I noticed this particularly when the article related to eating or exercise. Seriously, every day there is at least once article saying "healthy eating is good for you" - duh!

Anonymous said...

Carrie, since you have a good deal of experience in the general realm of dieting, ED, weight and body issues, I am curious: what do you think of "metabolic syndrome"? Do you think it's "real"? I have to admit I am a bit skeptical. But, I am a bit skeptical any time I see the very word "syndrome".

Carrie Arnold said...

Granted, I think the research itself is important (if a tad obvious). But someone really should edit these headlines a little better!


I, too, am sceptical of metabolic syndrome. It reminds me a lot of restless legs syndrome. No doubt real in some people, but it's a fuzzy diagnosis being way too broadly applied. There aren't standard diagnostics, really.

Granted there aren't for a lot of mental health issues, either.

I don't think you can call metabolic syndrome "pre diabetes" as some people do. Some of the people with so-called metabolic syndrome will go on to develop Type II diabetes, but some won't. And some people with Type II diabetes won't have it at all. I think metabolic syndrome is a constellation of symptoms that cluster together. Many things cluster together in life (red hair and freckles, as I well know), but that doesn't mean it causes disease.

We also don't know if more people now have "metabolic syndrome" than 100 years ago because we weren't measuring it then. We have pre-hypertension, pre-diabetes, pre-high cholesterol, which is really just a ploy for us to take more pills. Hell, I'm suffering from pre-death. Where's the coffin?


Yet I think the study results would still be valid if they looked at each symptom individually (irregular eating and waist circumference, irregular eating and insulin resistance, etc). Biochemically, the relationship between irregular eating and insulin resistance makes sense, because you will eat a lot after not eating for a while, your body will secrete a lot of insulin to manage the food, and if this becomes a pattern, your cells could be sensitized.

Anonymous said...

In defense of this study, I want to say that there are so many people who don't eat regularly and who probably think it doesn't matter (all calories are the same; it doesn't matter when you eat if you eat; etc.) that it is good to have "science" support this thing that our moms told us we should do, just because they said so.

Carrie Arnold said...

I'm not saying the study is bad. The headline was hilarious, however. I think I said in one of the other comments that I'm glad the study was done.

But according to your body, a calorie IS a calorie. A hundred calories of pure sugar might not leave you very nourished or satisfied, but it's still just 100 calories. 100 calories of complex carbs might take longer to break down and leave you more satisfied (if that is, indeed, what you are craving), but they're all broken down to the same components and everything goes through the Krebs (citric acid) cycle, whether it's from a marshmallow or a piece of oatmeal.

tokaiangel said...

Enjoyed your response here about metabolic syndrome - I've never really bought it completely.

Interestingly I went away travelling with a few bands at the height of my eating disorder. One of the bands were Italians, and my GOD they ate - way more than any of us Brits. I was fascinated by them. I did notice that our Brit boys would gorge on beer at night and then snack on crisps and chocolate during the day, whereas the Italians ate a far better quality of food at much more regular intervals. And looked a lot slimmer and healthier for it!

TA x

Carrie Arnold said...


I agree that high-quality food tastes better. And it also means you feel better. I'm not a salty snack person, but I do like my sweets. And I think things like crisps, etc, are fine as part of an overall healthy diet. But give me a nice artisan bread over Hostess cupcakes any day.

And the timing of eating is so important. The comparison between Brits and Italians was very interesting.

It was very hard for me to learn not to "horde" the number of calories (or food exchanges) that I "allowed" myself for the evenings. Yet a hearty breakfast really makes me feel better- and be less cranky!

Felicia said...

I have a question for anyone who has recovered from bulimia/anorexia. I have been bingeing and purging everyday since April and I am trying to stop now. I didn't binge/purge ytd but I feel like I am having water retention because my arms have gotten like bigger overnight, its true because I use my fingers to wrap around my wrist everyday to see if i've gained. Will i put on a lot weight once I start eating normally and stop bingeing and purging??? really hope someone can give me some advice

Carrie Arnold said...


I would encourage you to get support from a loved one and a care provider while you battle Ed. An eating disorder is a nasty foe, but one who can be beaten.

Water retention is super common when you stop bingeing and purging. The purging leaves you dehydrated, and so your body clings to all of the water as the electrolyte concentrations (sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium) normalize. This is temporary. It can take a number of days-even weeks- to normalize, but it will. Drink a lot of water and avoid super salty foods.

Best of luck in your recovery.

Post a Comment

Newer Post Older Post Home

ED Bites on Facebook!

ED Bites is on Twitter!

Search ED Bites

About Me

My photo
I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

Drop me a line!

Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


Popular Posts


Recent Comments