THURSDAY, May 16, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Researchers have long believed the obesity epidemic is at least partly related to the proliferation of highly processed foods. Now, new research suggests the connection is real.
In a tightly controlled lab study, scientists found that people ate many more calories — and gained a couple of pounds — when they spent two weeks on a highly processed diet, versus when they ate a diet rich in whole foods.
And it wasn’t just explained by the obvious — processed foods packing more sugar and fat.
Yet, during their two weeks on mostly processed foods, study volunteers chose to eat more — an extra 500 calories per day, on average. They also gained about 2 pounds, whereas they lost that much during their two weeks on the minimally processed diet.
“I’d thought we wouldn’t see much of an effect of the processed foods, per se, because we’d matched the diets for calories and other components,” Hall explained.
So what explains the extra calorie munching? Hall said he could only speculate.
One theory relates to the manner in which people ate: When they were on the heavily processed diet, they ate faster.
Whenever people scarf down their food, Hall explained, that gut has less time to tell the brain it’s full — making it easier to overindulge.
He also said that, to provide enough fiber, the processed diet included supplemented beverages. And since liquid may not be as satisfying as solid foods, Hall said, that might have swayed people’s overall calorie intake.
Whitney Linsenmeyer is a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She agreed the faster eating rate could be one explanation for the results.
Slower eating is, in fact, a weight-loss strategy, noted Linsenmeyer, who is also a nutrition instructor at Saint Louis University.