Women can lose weight by flavoring their food with calorie-free seasonings and sweeteners, which may make them feel full faster, according to a new study presented at The Endocrine Society's 90th Annual Meeting.
Researcher Alan Hirsch asked 2,436 overweight or obese individuals to sprinkle a variety of savory or sweet crystals on their food before eating their meals during the 6-month study period. The subjects put liberal applications of the salt-free savory flavors on salty foods and applied the sugar-free sweet crystals on sweet or neutral-tasting foods. They did not know what the flavors were other than salty or sweet. The hidden flavors of the savory tastants were cheddar cheese, onion, horseradish, ranch dressing, taco, or parmesan. Sweet flavors were cocoa, spearmint, banana, strawberry, raspberry, and malt. A control group of volunteers did not use tastants.
At the start of the study, the treatment group had an average weight of 208 pounds and average BMI of 34, which is considered obese. After 6 months of using the crystals, subjects who completed the study lost an average of 30.5 pounds, compared with just 2 pounds for the untreated controls. Their BMI dropped by an average of 5, moving them from obesity to the overweight range. The control subjects had an average BMI decrease of 0.3.
Hirsch theorizes that the subjects lost more weight than the controls did because the tastants made them feel full faster and therefore eat less. However, he did not track the amount of food the subjects ate. Another possibility, he said, is that the crystals improved the taste of bland but healthy foods, such as tofu and some vegetables, causing a change toward healthier eating habits. He said he believes this approach works because, unlike most diets, it is not based on food restriction.
"It could be that the percent of weight reduction would be lower in people who are less obese," Hirsch said. "In theory, tastants won't work for people who eat even when they're full and for people who have lost their sense of smell." Despite the tastant crystals not yet being commercially available, Hirsch said that people can use these techniques of enhancing their senses of smell and taste, to lose weight now. "Sniff your food before you eat it. Chew it a lot. Choose low-calorie foods and season them," he suggested.
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Source: The Endocrine Society