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Eating more CAN mean weighing less!



Weight management is a simple mathematical formula: calories in must equal calories out. The simplest advice for weight loss, then, is to eat less. Easy for some people, but for most people simply eating less means feeling hungry and dissatisfied, especially when large portions of high-calorie foods are so widely available. To combat this, organizations such as the American Diabetes Association have recommended that instead of simply eating less of the same foods, they should eat the same amount of foods, but switch to those that are lower in calories.

This might be effective in the lab, but what about in the real world? At Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Ledikwe and her colleagues designed a study to investigate the real-world relationship between the following factors: consumption of foods high in calories by weight (called "high calorie density"); consumption of foods low in calories by weight ("low calorie density"); and Body Mass Index (BMI) (Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:1362-8).

The researchers utilized data from a USDA survey performed in 1994-1996 in which a nationally-representative sample of 7,356 adults were contacted via phone on two different, non-consecutive days regarding what they had eaten in the last 24 hours. The sample excluded people who were pregnant or nursing, following a special diet, or who claimed not to have eaten at all.

The interviewee’s responses were quantified by dividing the number of calories they consumed each day by the weight of that food to arrive at an average caloric density for each person. That was then correlated with the individual's BMI and the number of fruits and vegetables (excluding those fruits and vegetables that were fried or dried) they consumed each day. Individuals were then classified into low-, medium-, or high-density diet groups as a means of comparison.

The results of that comparison are especially interesting: those who ate a low calorie density diet consumed fewer calories per day than those who ate a high calorie density diet, even though they ate more food by weight. The difference between the two diets was attributed to the higher intake of fruits and vegetables (over 9 servings per day) by those who ate the low calorie density diet. Persons who had the highest caloric-density diet and ate the fewest servings of fruits and vegetables had correspondingly higher rates of obesity, while the inverse was true as well: more servings of fruits and vegetables and a lower caloric density diet meant lower rates of obesity.

What this means for you

If you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t have to go hungry. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and use recipes like those on drgourmet.com, which have been created to reduce fat and calories while still being satisfying.

First posted: June 21, 2006