Why the device that counts the number of bites of food we take in a day is unlikely benefit health or weight

I came across this story today, which talks about the device that counts the number of bites of food individuals take over the course of the day. The idea appears to be there being aware of this can help individuals to keep within some sort of recommended calorie limit for the day. However, as someone in the article alludes to, the number of bites does not tell us what sort of food has been consumed, which some might argue is actually more important overall. I agree with this, and doubt the usefulness of a device of this nature.

There is also talk in this article of other devices that are really designed to monitor rate of eating. This, I think, is a much more useful metric. There is evidence from previous research that taking longer over food and chewing more thoroughly has the potential to curb any tendency to overeat.

The articles cites a study which examined the relationship between speed of eating and weight in Chinese men [1]. Overall, compared to normal weight individuals, those who were obese ate more quickly and chewed food less. The researchers went on ask men to consume a set meal under two different occasions. At one sitting, the men were asked to chew each mouthful of food 15 times. On the other occasion, they were to chew each mouthful 40 times. Overall, chewing food more thoroughly led to the men eating about 12 per cent less food in terms of its calorific value. Longer chewing was also associated with lower levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, and higher levels of appetite-sating hormones cholecystokinin and glucagon-like peptide 1.

This is not the only study that has found that consciously slowing down one’s eating can help individuals eat less quite automatically. In another study, 30 women were asked to eat a pasta-based meal and to take small bites and chew each one 15–20 times [2]. At another sitting, they were asked to eat as quickly as possible. In this setting, the women consumed about 70 calories more, and felt less satisfied immediately after the meal and an hour later.

One simple tactic that can help to slow down rate of eating is after taking a bite, to put down the food (if eating it with one’s hands) or fork or spoon, and then chew the mouthful of food thoroughly. Food or cutlery should only be picked up again one the food has been chewed completely (to a cream) and swallowed.

I think just this strategy alone can do much to slow down the rate of eating, help us derive more satisfaction from food and, ultimately, have us eating less but without hunger.

References:

1. Li J, et al. Improvement in chewing activity reduces energy intake in one meal and modulates plasma gut hormone concentrations in obese and lean young Chinese men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(3):709-16

2. Study presented at the Annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. 20-24 October 2006, Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts, US

5 Responses to Why the device that counts the number of bites of food we take in a day is unlikely benefit health or weight

  1. Stephen Rhodes 15 August 2014 at 6:41 pm #

    Does this research just go to show how little we have evolved since we got all our food as hunter-gatherers before we used fire?

  2. Peter 15 August 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    Is this not quite old information? I’m sure I remember from almost 10 years ago that eating more slowly had an effect on the appestat, eating more slowly made one sated more easily readily

  3. Zara Pradyer 15 August 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    I shall have to re-read the above several more times in the hope that it will not be as depressing as it seems.

    In the meantime, may I pass on something I read today. It is from the Early to Rise site and is a health tip from a fitness expert, Craig Ballantyne, – 15.08.14.

    He recommends – About 5 minutes before a meal eat a spoonful of organic almond or peanut butter. The healthy fats activate ghrelin – the hormone that tells your body that it should feel satisfied.

    Obviously, this might result in one eating less.

    Your views would be gratefully received.

    • Barry Cole 17 August 2014 at 11:35 am #

      Zara wrote – “The healthy fats activate ghrelin – the hormone that tells your body that it should feel satisfied” I have always understood that it was the hormone Leptin that did that.

  4. Helen Howes 20 August 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    Anything that makes you hyper-aware of your eating patterns will affect them disproportionately.. So a bite-counter may well work in a way.
    One of my students was very thin and seemed permanently listless.. I asked her to write down everything she ate for a couple of days, suspecting a deficit.. She was horrified by how much she seemed to be eating.. I was shocked by how little (one afternoon, her entire consumption was one cup of green tea and one mint sweet..)
    I noticed when I started to log my blood sugars (and thereby wrote down exactly what I ate) that it made me extremely aware of what and how much.. Never having “dieted” at any point in my life, I found this most curious.. Some of my friends “diet” all the time – it just seems to make them unhappy, without making them thin, so I assume that the advice they follow is poor (Low Fat, pah!!) – they do not seem to make the connection between hyper-awareness and actually improving their intake
    It’s a form of diary-keeping, I suppose, and it must seem like an easier option than actually making any other sort of decision on the matter

    HH

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