Hunger and obesity both linked to poor diet quality

October 19, 2022—Recently, nutrition research has been linking both hunger and obesity to the same problem—diets high in sugar and refined starch. Experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health commented in an October 5, 2022, Washington Post article about the growing consensus that the kind of food people eat is more important for healthy weight than the number of calories consumed.

“That puzzled me for many years—how could it be that people who were hungry or didn’t seem to have enough money to buy enough food could be more overweight or obese than people who had lots of resources,” said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition. “There are multiple lines that connect poverty, food insecurity, and obesity,” he said. “One of the most important connections is just simply poor food quality.”

A recent study led by David Ludwig, professor in the Department of Nutrition, and co-authored by Willett, explained a mechanism linking hunger and obesity: insulin. Foods like fries and sugary cereals cause insulin to spike, which causes people to feel hungrier and gain weight. The process is similar to the way that hormonal signals spur pregnant women and growing teenagers to eat more, Ludwig said. This phenomenon suggests that conventional wisdom around addressing weight issues should be upended, according to the authors.

“How long do you stick with a paradigm that’s based ultimately on eat less and move more, in one form or another, when it’s not working?” Ludwig said.

Read Washington Post article: Hunger and Obesity Are the Same Problem in the US