Investigating the Impact of “Hyper-Palatable” Foods Across Four Diets

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By analyzing data from previous studies, the researchers sought to identify key dietary characteristics that influence calorie intake. The results showed that three specific characteristics consistently resulted in higher calorie intake across four different dietary patterns: dietary energy density (ie, calories per gram of food), the presence of “super palatable” foods, and meal speed consumption. While dietary protein content also had an effect on calorie intake, the effect was found to be more variable.

If weight loss is one of your 2023 goals, findings from researchers at the University of Kansas and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may provide clearer guidance on what to put on your plate.

Using data from previous studies, the researchers sought to determine which features of the meal were important in determining how many calories to eat. They found that, across four different eating patterns, three meal characteristics consistently led to higher calorie intake: meal energy density (calories per gram of food), amount of “super tasty” foods, and speed of meal intake. The protein content of a meal also contributes to calorie intake, but its effect is more variable.

KU scientist Tera Fazzino first described in 2019 that super-tasty foods have a specific combination of fat, sugar sodium, and carbohydrates (think potato chips) that make them artificially good to eat and harder to stop.

“We wanted to know how the super-tasty properties of food, combined with other factors, might affect the number of calories a person consumes in a meal,” said Fazzino, associate director of the Center for Addiction Research and Treatment at Cofrin Logan. KU Life Span Institute, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, KU.

Fazzino, along with researchers from the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, wrote in the journal natural food This ultra-palatability increased energy expenditure in four eating patterns: low carbohydrate, low fat, unprocessed food-based diet and ultra-processed food-based diet.

Understanding how certain foods cause people to eat fewer calories without making them hungry can inform dietary recommendations for weight management. People are often advised to avoid energy-dense foods, such as crackers or cheese, that can lead to passive overeating. Instead, eating foods with low energy density, such as spinach, carrots, and apples, is often recommended. But people may be less familiar with foods that feature super savory, and they may be adding them to their plates without knowing it.

While super-tasty foods are also sometimes energy-packed, the new study shows that these super-tasty foods independently boost dietary calorie intake. The findings add to a growing body of research showing that superpalatability plays a role in the food choices people make and their body weight, Fazzino said.

“We want to have information about super palatable foods for individuals to consider when making dietary choices, and we hope scientists will continue to study super palatable traits as potential factors affecting energy intake,” she said.

Reference: “Energy Density, Eating Rate, and Superpalatable Foods Positively Influence Free-Feeding Energy Intake in Four Eating Patterns,” by Tera L. Fazzino, Amber B. Courville, Juen Guo, and Kevin D. Hall, 2023 January 30, natural food.
DOI: 10.1038/s43016-022-00688-4

Fazzino co-authored the findings natural food Co-funded the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) with Who researchers Kevin Hall, Amber Courville and Jen Guo.

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