The task of an aperitif is to excite the appetite, cause the secretion of saliva and digestive juices, and to a certain extent prepare the taste buds for the perception of the taste of food. Does this mean that an aperitif can make a person eat more than necessary? What other effect does an aperitif have on the body? Read the MedAboutMe article for answers.
Aperitif: what is it and why?
Drinking alcoholic beverages before meals was customary in the very early Middle Ages. Then this was done not so much to stimulate appetite, but as a prevention of many diseases that could be picked up with poorly cooked food. However, in a completely civilized 19th century, the task of an aperitif could remain the same. For example, in 1846, the French chemist Dubonnet created a recipe for an aperitif containing quinine, which was then used to treat malaria, and also used this bitter substance to prevent a disease that claimed millions of lives. The bitter taste of quinine was masked by a mixture of various wines, herbal extracts and spices.
By the way, malaria is still one of the most dangerous diseases. You can read about it in a separate article.
Representatives of fairly well-to-do strata of society “dabbled in” with an aperitif: there was no need for the poor to excite their appetite, they would be satisfied with meager food to their fill. But since then, the situation has changed, and today the aperitif has become a familiar part of the food culture. A glass of wine or a shot of whiskey before lunch or dinner is common.
But is it worth spurring the appetite in this way?
How does an aperitif work?
Many studies conducted by different groups of scientists have proven that drinking alcohol increases cravings for spicy and high-protein foods. However, there was no evidence that alcoholic beverages themselves can cause obesity, despite being high in calories.
Some scientists believe, however, that much depends on the amount of alcohol consumed: moderate consumption does not lead to weight gain, and excessive consumption can contribute to obesity. Or at least be a risk factor. This is reported in their article published in 2015, researchers from Canada.
But scientists from the UK have noticed a different relationship between alcohol and weight. According to their observations, people who often go on weight loss diets drink more to drown out the feeling of hunger. But they also more often report that it is under the influence of alcohol that they break down, lose self-control, and as a result “eat up” everything dropped at the cost of painful restrictions.
Japanese scientists investigated the relationship between alcohol consumption and the level of leptin, a hormone that suppresses the feeling of hunger. It turned out that after the introduction of a small amount of ethanol into the stomach, the level of leptin in the blood serum changes, namely, it significantly decreases. Which, accordingly, leads to increased feelings of hunger, and this effect lasts up to 6 hours. True, lab rats were used as test subjects, but the authors of the study, published in 2007, are confident that the results of their work are important for understanding the relationship between alcohol consumption and appetite in humans too.
Another study was conducted in the UK. It was attended by women who on different days were offered various alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks as an aperitif, and then — menus of different composition of products. The study participants were not concerned about being overweight, were calm about food, and did not seek to comply with dietary restrictions that could affect the outcome of the experiment. The result showed that alcohol encourages people to eat more high-calorie foods.
Amanda Grech, nutritionist
In Australia, a large-scale study of nutrition and health was conducted, which included information on food and drink obtained from more than 9,000 adults. We have developed a special observation method that allows you to take into account the various components and track the interactions between the consumption of certain foods and drinks.
Our research has confirmed that alcohol increases cravings for high-protein, high-energy foods and spicy spices. 2/3 of the participants after the aperitif chose meals low in fat and carbohydrates, but rich in easily digestible protein. The remaining 30% showed more interest in umami-flavored, high-fat, low-protein foods. The first consumed an average of 1750 kcal per day, the second — more than 3000 kcal. Accordingly, it is in the second group that the risk of overweight and obesity is high. But for participants in the first group, calorie intake roughly matches their needs and energy expenditure. From this we concluded that alcohol can indeed lead to weight gain, but this does not happen in all cases.
Much of the risk stems from the fact that unhealthy, high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods are more readily available and cheaper, which is why alcohol consumption can indeed contribute to the obesity epidemic, especially in times of crisis.
To drink or not to drink?
Business, as they say, master’s. But here’s what nutrition experts recommend.
- Do not forget that an aperitif does not have to contain alcohol. An aperitif can be a glass of mineral water or fruit juice, or a mixture of both. Just do not add alcohol to the juice: studies have shown that it is this mixture that most spurs hunger and makes you eat more unhealthy foods.
- Choose foods that are good sources of easily digestible protein for your menu: chicken, fish, seafood, legumes, cheese, nuts, vegetable dishes.
- Remember that the amount of alcohol you drink must be controlled and limited. And the best and safest thing is to stop using it.
We also recommend reading the article “Dangerous Liaisons: How Not to Combine Food and Alcohol.”
Shutterstock photo materials used