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Try smaller bites, sips to eat less

January 23, 2013|By Mary MacVean
  • Researchers watched people sip soup to monitor how much they ate.
Researchers watched people sip soup to monitor how much they ate. (Michael Robinson Chavez )

It may seem a little obvious, but one way to eat less is to take smaller bites.

Researchers from the Netherlands published a study Wednesday in the journal Plos One that looked at what happened when 53 people ate soup, taking various size sips – when they were focused and when they were distracted.

People who took small sips consumed about 30% less than those who took big sips and those who decided the size of their sips. And, those who took larger sips underestimated how much they ate.

“Consuming small bites rather than large bites involves more bites for consumption of the same amount of food. Due to a relatively higher number of bites … small bites may lead to lower food intake,” the researchers wrote. It’s also possible, they said, that lower intake results from diners’
beliefs about how much they are eating.

“These findings stress the importance of cognitive factors on satiation,” they said. So if you think you are full, that makes a difference.

But if a diner’s attention is distracted, those factors are also affected, and several studies have shown that people eat more while they are distracted by TV or other things.

The study subjects, ages 18 to 35, ate creamy tomato soup, with the sip sizes determined by a pump. They ate raisin rolls beforehand so they did not begin the study very hungry – a factor that might override other factors affecting their behavior. They could stop eating when they wanted to.

The researchers concluded that the food industry could design products that encourage smaller bites or sips as one way to reduce obesity.

A study published almost a year ago in the same journal showed that pairs of women eating together tended to mimic each other’s eating patterns. Does all of this mean you can design a dinner party that will keep you from eating too much? Perhaps.

mary.macvean@latimes.com

@mmacvean on Twitter

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