Bad science: Weight loss. January 12, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: bad science, food consumption and weight gain, overweight, research on weight gain, weight gain, weight loss
Silence Dogood here. God bless scientists, and their constant quest to make life better through research. But when research projects derail due to too-narrow focus and the scientists miss the point, it drives me crazy.
Such was the case with a study published in our local paper today. The scientists wanted to find out if eating more slowly caused people to eat fewer calories, and specifically, if it caused normal-weight people to eat fewer calories than overweight and obese people.
This topic in its wider implications has been on the table, so to speak, for a long time. Most doctors, nutritionists, and research scientists who specialize in the subject of weight loss and obesity maintain that the more slowly you eat, the more time your brain has to process a feeling of fullness, which makes it possible to stop when you’ve eaten half a plate of food or when you’ve reached the Japanese ideal of 80% full rather than gorging on everything in sight.
“Put your fork down between bites. Chew each mouthful 50 times. Sip water between each bite. Never eat in front of the TV. Allow no distractions when you’re eating, just focus on the food. Just eat one kind of food rather than a variety. Use a tiny plate. Get someone else to put away the leftovers.” And so the diet advice goes.
I agree that eating more slowly will make you eat less, but you’ll eat less, in my opinion, because the food becomes less appetizing. Hot food cools down past its perfect temperature; cold food warms up past its ideal temperature. The result is a gloppy, gelatinous, unappetizing mess. If you eat slowly, you’re more likely to eat the three perfect forkfuls or spoonfuls, then look at the increasingly revolting remains on your plate and put your utensils down. Yuck! Thank God for leftovers that can be brought back to the right temperature.
But I digress. In the study, normal-weight and overweight or obese participants were randomly assigned to eat slowly or “as quickly as possible without feeling uncomfortable.” All were given the same dish of vegetarian pasta. A few days later, they were again given the same pasta dish, but this time, they were to eat it in the opposite manner to their first attempt. The scientists measured calories consumed from both groups.
They found that, sure enough, both groups consumed fewer calories when they ate more slowly: The normal-weight group consumed 88 fewer calories, 805 versus 893. The overweight and obese group only consumed 58 fewer calories, 667 versus 725. See, the scientists said, overweight and obese people can’t regulate their calorie consumption as well as normal-weight people!
Well, excuuuse me. But might you have noticed that the overweight and obese group actually consumed far fewer calories than the normal-weight group?! 667 versus 805 and 725 versus 893 seems like a significant number of calories to me, and a finding that refutes the idea of people becoming fat because they gorge on ten times their weight of fast and junk food every day, unable to stop eating. However, the researchers were so focused on slow versus fast eating that they completely failed to notice, much less mention, this glaring discrepancy.
What could it mean? A logical conclusion is that normal-weight people’s metabolisms are simply more efficient than overweight people’s, allowing them to burn more calories. It could also mean that normal-weight people exercise more than overweight people, burning more calories and revving their metabolisms. It could even mean that normal-weight people choose healthier, lower-cal foods than overweight people, so they can eat more and weigh less. What it clearly does not show is that overweight people eat more than normal-weight people. In fact, it appears that, given the same food and the same amount of food, they eat less.
So perhaps the reporters and the doctors and everybody else can finally let go of the gluttony label and start looking at the real causes of weight gain and weight retention, and stop labeling everyone who says they eat almost nothing yet are overweight as liars.
‘Til next time,