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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Portion Control: is it all a matter of perception?

Research suggests that the key to losing weight could lie in manipulating our beliefs about how filling we think food will be before we eat it, suggesting that portion control is all a matter of perception.

Test subjects were more satisfied for longer periods of time after consuming varying quantities of food for which they were led to believe that portion sizes were larger than they actually were.

Memories about how satisfying previous meals were also played a causal role in determining how long those meals staved off hunger. Together, these results suggest that expectations before eating and memory after eating play an important role in governing appetite and satiety.

In the first experiment, participants were shown the ingredients of a fruit smoothie. Half were shown a small portion of fruit and half were shown a large portion. They were then asked to assess the 'expected satiety' of the smoothie and to provide ratings before and three hours after consumption. Participants who were shown the large portion of fruit reported significantly greater fullness, even though all participants consumed the same smaller quantity of fruit.

In a second experiment, researchers manipulated the 'actual' and 'perceived' amount of soup that people thought that they had consumed. Using a soup bowl connected to a hidden pump beneath the bowl, the amount of soup in the bowl was increased or decreased as participants ate, without their knowledge. Three hours after the meal, it was the perceived (remembered) amount of soup in the bowl and not the actual amount of soup consumed that predicted post-meal hunger and fullness ratings.

Dr. Brunstrom: "Labels on 'light' and 'diet' foods might lead us to think we will not be satisfied by such foods, possibly leading us to eat more afterwards - One way to militate against this, and indeed accentuate potential satiety effects, might be to emphasize the satiating properties of a food using labels such as 'satisfying' or 'hunger relieving'."
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So these diet foods could actually be causing us to eat more as we still think we should be hungry? Interesting!

This study really does highlight how that aspects of our lives that we never really considered anything more than biologically driven really can be altered by our psychological state of mind!

This is an interesting situation for advertisers. Do they want to avoid using 'diet' on their labels so people don't feel like they're missing out on food? Or keep using it because the 'diet' part is the reason people keep buying it?

I know I'll be paying more attention to the fine print now!

Link to Article

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