A new article published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that the length of an overeating episode can affect how the body adapts to and processes glucose and insulin as calories increase.

Lifestyle factors have had a direct contribution to the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes over the last several decades. Overindulgence and increased caloric consumption, in particular, had a direct impact on metabolic disease and severe health conditions. The new studies could shed light on how these overindulgence episodes impact our overall long-term health and weight.

Researchers from Deakin University in Australia recruited volunteers consisting of healthy, young men for a five day trial “indicative of humans overeating during festivals and holidays” and for a long-term look at chronic overeating lasting 28 days.
The nutritional breakdown was that of a typical Australian, with a 55% carb, 35% fat and 15% protein nutritional breakdown.

The overeating schedule included high-calorie snacks like potato chips and chocolate amounting to about 1,000 extra calories a day. The researchers looked at weight, fat mass, blood sugar, and insulin levels throughout the study.

The findings saw that visceral fat (the fat surrounding internal organs) increased substantially, but the short-term overindulgence didn’t affect the men’s weight or fat significantly. Short-term fasting also didn’t change blood sugar and C-peptide (amino acid that’s released in response to insulin production) levels.

However, chronic overindulgence increased body fat, visceral fat, blood sugar, and C-peptide levels. The researchers concluded that “early adaptations in response to carbohydrate overfeeding are directed at increasing glucose disposal to maintain whole-body insulin sensitivity.” In short, the body’s pretty good at regulating short bursts of overindulgence.