People hold their plates and treat themselves to various dishes at a lunch or buffet.Share on Pinterest
A new study challenges the belief that people can’t restrict food based on its calorie content. Evan Dahlen/Stoxy
  • People were thought to be unaware of the energy content of the foods they eat, and hence it was thought that they tended to eat the same amount of food by weight, regardless of its energy density.
  • However, a new study has found that humans may have more food-related intelligence than mindset.
  • The study shows that in real life people have reached a point where they limit the food they eat according to the calories it contains.

In everyday life, we are surrounded by well-publicized, tasty and high-calorie foods with a high fat content, which makes it easy for people to exceed their energy expenditure. promotes weight gain and obesity.

Until now, it was generally accepted that people have readiness overeat high-energy or high-calorie foods in the same way as low-energy or low-calorie foods.

A new study by scientists from the University of Bristol suggests that people subconsciously limit the size of their meals based on the calorie content of the food.

Researchers say it has to do with innate nutritional wisdom or nutritional intelligence, or people’s ability to respond to the nutrient content of the food they eat or plan to eat.

The study was published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Speaking with medical news today, Dr. Jeff Brunstrom, a professor of experimental psychology and one of the study’s authors, explained that the traditional way to look at eating behavior is to “take food and then manipulate it.” He said researchers then typically add extra calories or protein to the food and study participants’ responses to see if there are any changes.

In the current study, researchers studied participants’ reactions to food eaten in a controlled environment. They tracked and recorded the meals of 20 healthy adults who lived in a metabolic hospital ward for 4 weeks.

The researchers also included free-living participants in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey. They recorded all the foods and drinks consumed by the participants in a diet diary for 7 days.

In total, the researchers analyzed 32,162 meals after excluding snacks (4 kcal/g). The researchers recorded the calories, grams, and energy density (kcal/g) of all meals.

The researchers used a two-component meal size model. They used volume as the primary signal for low energy foods and calorie content as the primary signal for higher calorie foods.

Speaking with Tugrikslead author of the study Annika Flynna nutrition and behavioral researcher described a “tipping point” when “as the food became more caloric, the calorie content of those meals actually began to decrease.”

According to Flynn, this means that “people actually regulate the amount of food they put on their plate based on the energy density of the food they were about to eat,” suggesting that people have sensitivity to the content of the food they eat. .

Mark Shatzkerauthor “Dorito effect” and who did not participate in the study, told Tugriks:

“The implications for our understanding of appetite and nutrition are far-reaching. […] perhaps we fundamentally misunderstand the nature of obesity. Instead of mindlessly consuming calories, perhaps there is some aspect of the modern food environment that is forcing people who are nutritionally sensible to consume too much food.”

“[This study] challenges the long-held and widely held assumption that humans have some sort of primitive, unbridled caloric craving. Rather, it seems that we have a built-in ability to measure the calorie content of food as we consume it and unconsciously estimate how much we should therefore eat.”
— Mark Shatzker

When asked if she expected to see the same behavior in overweight people, Flynn replied that their article did not take this scale into account.

However, Flynn said they accounted for individual variation using mean-centered analysis to “[..] try to account for the fact that a large person can eat more food than a smaller person.”

The research is still at an early stage. The next steps, Flynn says, is to study individual variation to see which groups of people and individuals show different degrees of food sensitivity.

The study adds to our understanding of food intelligence and how it changes; however, in the words of Dr. Branstrom, “we’re just scratching the surface here.”

He said refocusing the narrative on the “more complex interaction” of people regarding calorie differentiation could be helpful.

“[We need to think about] where does this ability to distinguish calories come from – is it something innate, is it acquired on a personal level, or is it formed as part of a collective form of learning that occurs within generations and from generation to generation, [forming] part of our collective cuisine or collective culinary practice?”
— Dr. Jeff Brunstrom

“These questions are all interesting and we will probably want to explore them in different ways,” added Dr. Brunstrom.

The main message of this study is that, at some level, people can self-regulate their calorie intake and naturally adjust meal sizes to reduce the negative effects of overeating.

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