fad diets promise a trimmer physique, the old-fashioned
route of portion control and calorie consciousness
may be the way to go after all.
In an experiment with 24 young women,
researchers found that the study participants
ate far fewer daily calories when their meal
portions were trimmed down or when they traded
in some calorie-dense dishes for less rich substitutes
-- all without their feeling deprived.
Both diet tactics -- portion control and lower-calorie
options -- were effective and "additive," meaning
women took in the fewest calories when they
practiced both, the study found.
In fact, the two together sliced a whopping
812 calories, on average, from the women's daily
intake, according to findings published in the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
What's exciting about the results, lead study
author Dr. Barbara J. Rolls stated, is that
the calorie plummet came without "huge changes"
to the diet, and without leaving the women feeling
hungry at the end of the day.
The diners still enjoyed brownies, potato chips
and cheese and crackers, albeit lower-fat versions.
It's thought that life in a land of plenty
-- especially cheap, super-size portions of
calorie-dense foods -- is fueling the rise of
obesity in the U.S. and other nations. Calorie
density refers to a food's number of calories
pound for pound. A pound of broccoli, for instance,
has far fewer calories than a pound of chocolate.
Past research has shown that portion size can
play a vital role in a person's calorie intake;
if there's more food on the plate, more food
goes into the stomach -- even if the diner could
feel satisfied with less.
But calorie-density is also key, according
to Rolls, a professor of nutritional sciences
at Pennsylvania State University in University
And, in fact, cutting calorie density without
cutting portions was more effective in this
study than simple portion control.
The 24 women, who ranged in age from 19 to
35, followed each of four menu plans for two
days apiece. One plan had them eating standard
portions of common foods like muffins, pizza,
pasta and salad. Another gave them lower-calorie
versions of these same meals -- reduced-fat
snack food, for example, or dinners containing
a larger proportion of vegetables.
A third eating plan gave the women full-calorie
fare but smaller servings, while the fourth
included both portion control and lower-calorie
The researchers found that all three of the
diet-conscious tactics cut the number of calories
the women ate each day, but the combination
of portion control and calorie-watching was
most effective, lowering their calorie intake
by 812 calories a day.
Controlling calorie density was, however, more
effective than eating smaller servings of richer
foods. The former cut an average of 575 calories
from the women's daily intake, while portion
control trimmed their daily calories by 231.
Rolls said the "message" here for restaurants
is that lowering the calorie density of their
meals, and less so the size, may be the wiser
move. Customers may feel cheated by the sight
of skimpier servings, she noted, but may not
notice the lower calorie density.
At home, Rolls said, people can trim the calorie
density of their meals by adding more vegetables
to the plate, or by having a light soup or large
salad as a starter.
SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,