Science-- there's something for everyone

Friday, August 17, 2012

To improve dieting success, cut your food up

Here’s a simple trick to make yourself believe that you’re ingesting more calories than you actually are: cut your food into small pieces. Apparently, this works on both humans and rats.

Devina Wadhera of Arizona State University presented her findings last month at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior in Zurich, Switzerland. She gave rats a choice of either one big chunk of food, or four smaller chunks that added up to the same weight as the big piece. The rats preferred the four smaller pieces. This was also true when the choice was between one piece of food and ten smaller pieces. Rats not only chose the maze pathways that led to the smaller pieces, but rushed there more quickly.

How about people? Wadhera gave 300 college students either a whole bagel with cream cheese, or a similar bagel with the same amount of cream cheese cut into quarters. The students ate more of the whole bagel than the cut up bagel. Twenty minutes after the students had eaten their bagels, they were offered a free (and unbeknownst to them, carefully measured) meal and told to eat as much as they liked. Uneaten portions of both bagel and meal were then weighed. Students who had gotten the quartered bagel ate less of the subsequent meal, even if they’d also already eaten less of the bagel.

So, rats enjoy small portions more, and humans eat less when presented with smaller portions. If the college students had been required to race to either the cut up bagel or the whole bagel, it might have been a resounding victory for cutting up food. As it is, this may be an easy way to make a diet seem less restrictive.