When you’re craving a new slice of pizza, it’s tempting to throw together a few simple meals and call it a day.
But, according to a new study, this strategy is likely to be counterproductive.
The study, led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and published in the journal Science, shows that people who are craving a meal with only a few main ingredients—a pizza, a salad, or a chicken salad—may be more likely to overeat and ultimately die from the disease than people who don’t indulge in these sorts of meals.
The study is the first to examine the relationship between craving for specific food and eating behaviors and outcomes, says lead author Daniel M. Rifkin, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of food science and nutrition at Johns Johns Hopkins.
In the study, participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their current eating habits and their general health.
Then, they were randomly assigned to a group that consumed the pizza or the salad.
Participants who were craving for pizza were more likely than those who were not to eat any of the main items on the menu.
But those who did not indulge in pizza were also more likely on average to die of cardiovascular disease and stroke, which are common complications of heart disease.
The researchers found that those who ate pizza and salads were also at a higher risk of dying from the conditions.
The researchers were able to show that the risk of cardiovascular and stroke was also higher for those who had consumed just one of these two meals—a result that the researchers attribute to the fact that pizza is a simple, filling meal.
They say the results of this study may be useful in understanding how people respond to complex and challenging foods.
But they caution that the study doesn’t prove that all pizza or salad lovers are healthier than those not craving pizza.
In their study, the researchers asked participants to fill in the following question: “For the past year, have you had any major or minor eating disorders?”
Participants were then randomly assigned into the pizza-only or salad-only groups.
Then they were given the option to eat a pizza or a salad.
The pizza-eaters ate a slice of the pizza and the salad-eatrs ate a piece of the salad and a side of a side dish.
“People were much more likely in the pizza group to have a history of major or severe eating disorders than the salad group,” says Rifkins.
“It was a really surprising finding.”
The researchers then asked the participants to rate the healthfulness of the four main food groups on a five-point scale: “Not at all healthy,” “Very healthy,” or “Fairly healthy.”
The researchers then had them record their overall scores on these scales and then measured how many people had fallen below a certain threshold.
The data showed that those in the salad category were at higher risk for all of the major health problems.
For example, they had a higher chance of dying of cardiovascular death, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.
They also had a greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and can lead to serious health complications.
While this study was a relatively small sample size, it is important to note that the results don’t prove pizza-eating is healthy or harmful, Rifkins says.
“We are not saying that eating pizza is bad or that eating salad is good or that people should never eat pizza,” he says.
But it does suggest that a healthy diet of salads, pizza, and other food options should be part of a healthy lifestyle, he says, adding that it’s important to remember that this study did not look at eating habits alone.
This is just the beginning of a bigger research effort to understand the role of eating disorders in the obesity epidemic, says Ruparel Singh, a research scientist at the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion at Johns Wilson School of Public Health and co-author of the study.
“This is a very good first step to understanding the link between obesity and a diet that’s high in fat and sugar,” he adds.