In desperate attempts to lose weight, people are willing to try just about anything. New fad diets are constantly popping up, and the diet industry makes boatloads of cash every year. Americans spend about $40 billion yearly on weight-loss programs and products. With so many people trying to drop pounds, it's easy to see why people are so willing to try the latest trendy diets. But could weight control be as simple and as cheap (free!) as chewing your food more?
More Chewing, Fewer Calories
A new research study discovered that people who chewed their food more ended up taking in fewer calories. The study, which was published in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was conducted at the School of Public Health at Harbin Medical University in China. The study involved 30 young men--16 lean and 14 obese. This two-part study first looked at whether the obese subjects chewed their food differently than the study's lean subjects. All of the study's participants fasted for 12 hours and then consumed a meal consisting of carbohydrate-heavy Chinese breakfast food. They were given identical portions and were instructed to ask for more food if they wanted it.
Confirming their theory, researchers found that the obese participants consumed their food more quickly and chewed the food less. During the second part of the study, all of the men were fed the same meal and instructed to chew it either 15 or 40 times per bite. Both groups of men--the obese subjects and the lean subjects--consumed 12 percent fewer calories when they chewed the food 40 times versus when they chewed it just 15 times. The men who took took 40 chews also produced less of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin and produced more of the appetite-suppressing hormone cholecystokinin.
The study's researchers stated that "interventions aimed at improving chewing activity could become a useful tool for combating obesity." In fact, taking in 12 percent fewer calories adds up to a 25-pound weight loss in just one year. However, this study was small and only included men. Further research is needed.
Seem Too Easy?
While simply chewing your food more may seem simple, it might be harder than you'd think. Scientists who previously researched chewing behavior theorize that people inherently chew at their own steady pace, something the researchers dubbed a "unique fingerprint of masticatory behavior."
Eating mindfully in a fast-paced world can be difficult, but not impossible. First of all, focus on your meal. Get rid of distractions such as the noise of the television or the glare of a computer screen (previous studies have shown when people ate at their work desks they consumed more calories).
Secondly, slow down. It takes your body approximately 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you're full. Tips for slowing down include setting your fork or spoon down in between bites or taking sips of water after every bite. Eat meals with friends or family membersm and spend time talking instead of inhaling your food like it's a race to the finish line. Truly savor your food--enjoy it slowly rather than treating it like another chore you have to get through. After all, eating is one of life's simplest pleasures.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.