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The Surprising Science of the Tailgate Diet

How much does a 5,000-calorie Super Bowl spread rush and sack your poor body? Believe it or not, it all depends on genetics

If your Super Bowl plans include beer, burgers and longing for companionship after a lonely year in quarantine, researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine just published a study that may make you reconsider — or overindulge even more.

The team of researchers assembled a small group of overweight but otherwise healthy men, then gave them “alcoholic drinks, hamburgers, chips and cupcakes,” which, where the hell was my invitation? Then, they asked the guys to simulate a tailgate so they could investigate the impact of all that eating and drinking on their livers. What they learned was, basically, all bodies respond differently, or rather, how poorly your body fares after burgers, chips, cupcakes and booze is somewhat of a gamble.

“Surprisingly, we found that in overweight men, after an afternoon of eating and drinking, how their bodies reacted to food and drink was not uniform,” lead researcher Elizabeth Parks said in a press release. “In some people, the body responded in a unique way to take the stress off the liver. These findings reveal that both genetics and lifestyle can work together to protect us from overconsumption of nutrients.”

On average, the big boys each consumed 5,087 calories (which, wow) and sustained blood alcohol levels of 0.08 to 0.10. Yet, while nine men showed increased fat in the liver, five showed a decrease and one experienced no change whatsoever, so I guess life really is unfair.

Even more confusing, men with a high amount of liver fat seemed to gravitate more toward carbohydrates and less toward alcohol than other participants, suggesting that, contrary to common knowledge, carbs may be even worse for the liver than booze, or that limiting carbs can help to protect the liver. “A potential explanation of these findings is that high carbohydrate consumption may have a greater impact on liver fat than alcohol in some people,” Parks explained. “Given the high prevalence of overconsumption of food and alcohol in the U.S., further studies are needed in a larger population.”

In any case, here’s hoping you’re one of the lucky ones.