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Fruits and vegetables are good for your... bones?
In light of the health risks presented by osteoporosis, researchers in Cambridge, England sought to determine whether fruits and veggies could help prevent bone loss (Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83(6):1420-8). They recruited 5 groups of people to participate in their study: adolescent boys and girls, young women between 23 and 37, and older men and women between 60 and 83.

More Fruit, Less Junk
There's a lot of concern about childhood obesity, and justifiably so: over 1 in 3 children (including adolescents) are at least overweight, if not obese. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that as of 2008, 20% of children between the ages of 6 and 11 are obese, while 18% of kids 12-19 are obese. 

How to get your kids to eat more fruit
I've written before about how few children and adolescents are eating their recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables per day (Adolescents low in fruits and vegetables, 2/7/07). Researchers at Yale University recently discovered a simple way to get kids to eat more fruit (Int J Beh Nutr Phys Act 2007).


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Variety is the Spice of Life

As you might imagine, for those who do nutrition research there's quite a bit of interest in finding ways to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables. I've reported on research focused on children that suggests that simply suggesting that they have some fruit might help (Bite, 3/21/07), while serving them larger portions of vegetables alongside their main course might induce them to eat more of their vegetables (Bite, 1/25/12). Hiding vegetables in other foods also seemed to help with vegetable intake in children (Bite 9/14/11). Adults, on the other hand, are a little harder to fool, and research into what makes people want to eat more fruits or vegetables is correspondingly more subtle.

Researchers in The Weight Control and Diabetes Center at Brown Medical School focused their research on the link between variety and increased food intake. They noted that even variations within a meal as small as a difference in pasta shape can induce people to eat more at a meal. Would variety in fruits induce people to eat more, as well (Appetite 2012;59(3):662-667)?

They recruited 20 men and women to participate in their food study, telling them only that they were looking at fruit consumption as it related to the taste of the fruit. Each participant tasted and rated their preference (from greatest liking to least) of six fruits. Then on two separate occasions the participants were served snacks in the lab and instructed to eat as much as they wanted. On one occasion the participant was served equal portions of their highest-rated fruit in four separate "courses," lasting 7 minutes each. On a second occasion, they were served four courses of fruit - their 4 top-rated fruits - in a random order. Again the amounts were the same each time and they were given 7 minutes to eat the fruit.

The researchers compared how much fruit the participants ate overall as well as how much fruit each participant ate during each course. They found that although people tended to eat the same amount of fruit overall regardless of whether they had a variety of fruit or the same fruit on four occasions, those with a variety tended to eat more in their fourth (last) course than those who had eaten the same thing three times before.

What this means for you

This is a very small study, but it's interesting because it suggests that (surprise!) people get tired of eating the same thing over and over even if they like that food. Variety seems to help keep people interested in their food, so keep your own meals interesting and increase your fruit and vegetable intake by eating a variety instead of the same thing over and over.

First posted: November 28, 2012