Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

What happens to your body when you eat too much?

Your body has methods for dealing with one too many roast potatoes...

Jodie Tyley
Thursday 31 December 2015 16:58 GMT
(Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

At the end of the holiday season, many of us have eaten one too many delicious chocolates or crispy potatoes. So, what happens to your body when you eat too much?

When you’ve just polished off a plate piled high with food, it can sometimes feel like you’re going to explode. Although it is possible for your stomach to rupture after overeating, your gag reflex is likely to kick in long before you reach that point.

The average human stomach can handle between one and one-and-a-half litres of food before getting the urge to throw it back up, but can stretch to accommodate four times that much before a rupture occurs.

When you eat a meal that’s high in fat, sugar and carbohydrates, your parasympathetic nervous system tells your body to slow down and focus on digesting the food, causing you to feel lethargic.

As the food is digested, cells in your pancreas produce the hormone insulin, which in turn leads to an increase in melatonin and serotonin, hormones that makes you feel drowsy as well as happy. You may also struggle to keep your eyes open thanks to a spike in glucose levels from the food you’ve eaten. This can interfere with the neurons in your brain that normally produce the orexin proteins responsible for keeping you awake and alert.

Your fat cells produce the hormone leptin, which binds with receptors in the brain to tell you that you’re no longer hungry.

Regularly eating more than your body needs causes your body to produce more of this hormone, as leptin levels are directly related to the amount of body fat a person has.

In such cases, people may build up a resistance to leptin, which disrupts the brain’s ability to recognise when you’re full, leading you to overeat and put on weight.

Jodie Tyley is the Editor of How It Works Magazine. Issue 79 out now, RRP £4.25. Follow the magazine on Twitter: @HowItWorksmag

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in