October 15, 2009

4 Min Read
Want to Eat Less? Don’t Gulp Your Food

By Maureen Williams, ND

Healthnotes Newswire (October 15, 2009)—It seems that everyone has advice for people who want to eat less. A new study supports that at least one piece of common wisdom—taking small bites and taking your time over a meal—actually works: a new study found that taking smaller bites and leaving food in the mouth longer reduced the total amount of food eaten.

Savoring small bites

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 22 healthy normal-weight adults who each participated in seven separate eating tests.

• In the first test, they were free to eat the test food (chocolate custard) in any bite size and have it in the mouth for any length of time.

• In subsequent tests, bites were either free or measured into small (about 1 teaspoon) or large (about 1 tablespoon) sizes, and the time each bite was in the mouth was either short (3 seconds) or long (9 seconds).

• In all of the tests, bites were 20 seconds apart, and the participants could stop eating whenever they felt satisfied.

The participants ate approximately 3 to 4 ounces less chocolate custard when the bite sizes were small than when they were large, and approximately 1.5 to 2.25 ounces less when they held the custard in their mouth longer than when they swallowed it quickly. Even during the free bite size tests, those who took bigger bites ate more custard.

Quality affects quantity

A number of previous studies have observed that food texture and speed of consumption can influence our experience of fullness and satisfaction. For example, liquid foods and semi-solid foods, which tend to be consumed in larger mouthfuls and more quickly than solid foods, have less effect on reducing appetite than solid foods of equal calories that require chewing time. The end result is that we can consume more calories from these foods without feeling full or satisfied.

The new study adds to the evidence that, in addition to texture, bite size and the time that food is in the mouth are important factors in determining how much we eat. The study’s authors note that “the results of our study show that greater oral sensory exposure to a product, by eating with small bite sizes rather than with large bite sizes and increasing oral processing time, significantly decreases food intake.”

Slow it down

For many people, generally consuming fewer calories each day would be a healthy change. Following the practice of taking small bites, holding them in the mouth whether or not they need much chewing, and waiting between bites may help to trigger the sensation of fullness before you’ve overeaten. Here are some other ways to keep your appetite and eating under control:

• Let low-calorie, high-fiber foods, like fruits and vegetables, fill you up.

• Choose other fiber-dense foods, which increase the sensation of fullness, like whole grains, beans, and lentils.

• Stave off hunger by using healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and liquid oils in your meals to slow down digestion and sugar metabolism.

• Try using a small spoon when eating semi-solid foods to control bite size.

• Eat at home and serve yourself small portions of everything except vegetables. Large portion sizes, such as those served in fast food restaurants, encourage overeating.

• Eat on a schedule—don’t skip meals, and don’t eat after dinner.

(Am J Clin Nutr 2009;90:269–75)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada, and has done extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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