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How Hungry You Are Might Not Determine How Much You Eat

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You meticulously track your fiber and protein to ensure that you're getting enough to be full and satisfied. You don't go too long without eating, lest your appetite get totally out of control. And you pay attention to your body's appetite signals, because if you truly feel hungry, that means you should eat, right?

Turns out, no amount of lean protein, veggies, and whole grains and nutrients will keep you from eating that slice of pizza in front of you. Your body—like your dog, who insists that he's starrrrvvving even after half a bag of Milkbones—is going to fool you and say, sure, you need some M&Ms, even when you don't. Why are we suddenly so pessimistic about controlling our appetites? Turns out, your appetite doesn't actually determine how much food you will eat, according to a new review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. (And since you know you'll probably eat too many slices anyway, maybe stick with these healthy pizza recipes instead?)

The review looked at 462 studies on appetite and calorie consumption and found that in a majority of them, self-reported hunger levels didn't predict how many calories someone would consume. Only 37 percent of the studies demonstrated a definitive link between appetite and subsequent energy intake.

"For example, you could eat a meal which claims to satisfy your appetite and keep you feeling full-up for a long period of time but nonetheless go on to consume a large amount of calories later on," said study author Bernard Corfe, Ph.D., in a release from the University of Sheffield, where the study was done.

Plus, the review authors found that only 6 percent of the studies performed a direct statistical analysis to compare self-reported appetite and calorie consumption, and only half of that 6 percent showed a link between appetite and food consumption. The study authors say this suggests the original researchers may have selectively reported this connection. (One connection we do know about is post-exercise hangriness. Here's how to keep it in check.)

The takeaway: Not only is the link between appetite and food consumption lacking in evidence, but we need some more research that looks into exactly what's going on while we eat—from environment, social factors, and trained behavior relating to food timing, to our innate physical regulation of food intake.

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