If you want to avoid packing on extra pounds this holiday season, it's important to eat the good stuff in moderation. In addition to consuming sensible portions of your favorite foods, dining at a leisurely pace and stopping eating before you feel stuffed play important roles in preventing weight gain.
Eating quickly and until you feel full triples the risk of becoming overweight or obese, according to a report published in the British Medical Journal. In a three-year investigation of the eating habits of over 3,000 adults, researchers found that men and women who ate quickly and until they felt full ended up consuming more food and gained more weight than those who slowly savored their meals.
Dining in a slow, relaxed manner gives the brain sufficient time to receive hormonal messages from the stomach indicating that enough food has been consumed and it's time to put down the fork and step away from the table. The results of a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism show that rapid consumption of food curtails the release of satiety hormones, leading to overeating and weight gain.
In the study, volunteers were asked to eat a serving of ice cream at different rates while scientists drew blood samples at regular intervals. The blood samples were evaluated for levels of glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1), a powerful appetite-suppressing hormone produced by cells in the gut in response to eating.
The researchers found that the subjects who ate the ice cream in a leisurely manner had significantly higher levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone and reported feeling substantially fuller than the volunteers who quickly polished off the ice cream.
The rate at which food is eaten isn't the only factor that influences the release of appetite-suppressing hormones. Scientists at Kings' College London found that eating meals with a low glycemic index leads to feelings of fullness by increasing production of GLP-1.
Glycemic index (GI) is a ranking assigned to carbohydrate foods based on their effect on the body's blood-sugar levels. A low GI meal takes longer to digest and releases sugar into the bloodstream more slowly than a high GI meal.
High GI foods include processed and refined items such as white bread, white rice, cookies and cakes, while low GI foods include whole grains, nuts, and most raw fruits and vegetables. Nutritionists have known for years that a low GI diet can help suppress appetite and reduce weight gain, but the mechanisms behind this phenomenon weren't fully understood until recently.
In their study, the Kings' College scientists gave healthy volunteers either a low GI meal or a high GI meal. Blood levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone GLP-1 were found to be 20 percent greater in the subjects who ate the low GI meal compared to those who consumed the high GI meal.
If you want to suppress your appetite even more, make sure you get plenty of sleep at night. Short-changing yourself of much needed slumber can boost levels of a powerful appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin.
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that short-sleepers are at high risk for becoming overweight and that hormonal changes in the body may be to blame. Researchers at the University of Bristol in England found that adults who habitually slept five hours or less at night had 15 percent more ghrelin than those who routinely slept for eight hours or longer.
A modest rise in ghrelin can stimulate a voracious appetite and a dramatic increase in food intake. When scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine administered small doses of the hormone to frail, elderly women, the women consumed 51 percent more calories than those who received a placebo.
When it comes to controlling appetite and preventing weight gain, getting enough exercise is just as important as getting enough sleep. In addition to burning calories from fat, physical activity promotes weight loss by lowering levels of ghrelin and other appetite-stimulating hormones in the body.
Feasting in moderation will help you avoid packing on extra pounds this holiday season. If you want to go the extra mile to prevent holiday weight gain, plan to spend a little more time exercising, sleeping and savoring your favorite foods, one delicious bite at a time.
Rallie McAllister, M.D. is a family physician, speaker, and co-founder of www.MommyMDGuides.com, a website featuring child-raising tips from trusted doctors who are also moms.