Many people with diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes, are overweight and struggle to lose excess pounds. A body of evidence — including the finding that bariatric surgery often resolves Type 2 diabetes even before weight loss occurs — suggests that hormones regulating hunger and satiation may play a major role in how the body regulates blood glucose. Normally, reducing one’s caloric intake is difficult if not painful — after all, hunger is a powerful thing. But a number of strategies have been shown in studies to allow people to reduce their calories and still feel full after eating.
A post last month on the New York Times blog Well reviews two recent studies that explored the effects of foods on appetite and caloric intake. The first study, published last year in the journal Physiology & Behavior, involved 25 healthy adults who were served soup both with and without hot red pepper in it at different times. Of these participants, 13 regularly ate spicy food and 12 did not. The researchers found that the participants unaccustomed to spicy food consumed, on average, 60 calories less in a meal after finishing the soup with hot red pepper in it. In participants accustomed to spicy food, however, the effect on caloric consumption was negligible. Both groups experienced an increase in metabolism that tended to burn 10 extra calories, suggesting that some of the hot red pepper’s effects did not depend on sensitivity to spicy foods. Even if the benefit of hot pepper could be maintained by constantly increasing the dose to compensate for loss of sensitivity, 60 calories hardly seems like an appetite reduction that would justify such measures.
In the second study, published earlier this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers explored whether adding pureed vegetables to prepared dishes — thereby reducing their calorie density — would lead to reduced caloric intake if participants were allowed to eat as much as they liked. On three separate occasions, the researchers prepared a regular main dish as well as two reduced-calorie versions that contained 85% and 75% as many calories per unit of weight. Side dishes were also served. Participants were found to eat a consistent weight of food regardless of the calorie density of the main dish. Therefore, they consumed an average of 202 calories less per meal with the 85%-density dish, and 357 calories less with the 75%-density dish. After the meal, participants in all groups reported similar levels of satiety and satisfaction with the meal.
But according to one of the pureed-vegetable study’s authors — as quoted in the Well post — combining the two appetite-reduction approaches may work best, since spicy foods are less likely to reveal the flavor of pureed vegetables. The author, Barbara Rolls, is a well known nutrition researcher who also wrote the popular Volumetrics diet book series. Those books recommend consuming large amounts of foods with a low calorie density: those that are high in fiber and water, which include many fruits and vegetables.
What do you think of these appetite-reduction approaches — do you believe adding pureed vegetables to dishes would make you eat less in the long run, or just get hungry again later? How about adding more spice to your food? Is there another strategy that you find more promising, such as including more protein-rich foods in your meals? What works — and doesn’t work — for you? Leave a comment below!