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Make Your Diet More Effective with A Little Something Before Meals
There are all sorts of appetite reduction tips that I hear from my patients. Some swear by chewing gum to reduce their appetite, although at least one study indicates that it doesn't actually affect appetite. People also talk about having a glass of water before meals, and in one study it did seem that having two cups of water before meals helped people lose more weight. 

Does Drinking Water Help You Lose Weight?
Patients have been asking me for years if drinking water would help them lose weight. While I certainly recommend that people switch from sodas (diet or regular) to drinking water, coffee, or tea, there hasn't been a whole lot of evidence for a link between drinking water and weight loss alone.

Being Careful with Alcohol
Last week’s column about being prepared for the cocktail or holiday party resulted in a lot of questions about alcohol and drinking. While we know that drinking can be beneficial, it can also cause many health issues. About 2 drinks a day on average for men and 1 per day for women has been shown to be favorable, but binge drinking can cause more health problems than balanced consumption.


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Eat Your Soup

Researchers from The Pennsylvania State University recently reported on a very interesting study they performed on the effect of eating soup on food intake (Appetite, 2007: doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2007.04.002). Would having a bowl of soup before a meal's entree help reduce the total amount eaten at that meal? And would the consistency of the soup make a difference?

To find out, they recruited 35 women and 38 men, all of normal weight and otherwise healthy, to eat both breakfast and lunch in the lab once a week for five weeks. On each lunch occasion the subjects were presented with one of five soup variations, then a standard meal that remained the same each week. The five soup options were as follows: a cup of broth with cooked vegetables on the side; the cooked vegetables in the broth (to make a chunky soup); part of the vegetables pureed in the broth and part left chunky; the vegetables and the broth pureed until smooth; or no soup ("No soup for you!"). Regardless of which soup course they were served, the amount of calories remained the same (except for the no-soup option, of course). The subjects were required to finish the soup before being served the main course.

The researchers correlated the type of soup the subjects were served with the amount of the main meal that subject ate. They found that regardless of the type of soup served, those subjects who received soup as a first course ate 20% less of the main course than they did if they had no soup at all.

What this means for you

Soup is good food, and this shows that eating soup can be a good strategy to use for weight loss. (Cream-based soups, however, can be loaded with fat and calories because they're made with heavy cream or half and half. Best to avoid them unless you make them yourself.) The next time you go out to dinner, have a bowl of vegetable or other non-creamy soup as your starter. You won't mind taking half of your dinner home in a doggy bag for lunch the next day.

First posted: September 12, 2007