Saturday, June 14, 2008

Eat This First. Feel Full, Eat Less Later

It's almost magic! Before lunch, eat an apple. Wait 15 minutes. Then eat lunch--but eat only until you feel full. When 59 healthy men and women of normal weight did this for five weeks as part of a Pennsylvania State University study, they ate almost 190 fewer calories at lunch than when they didn't have the apple. Do that for a few weeks and you can practically watch the weight melt off your tummy and hips.

USA Today reports that the Penn State team wanted to test how apples prepared in different ways affect appetite and subsequent calorie intake. In this controlled feeding study, the participants ate both breakfast and lunch in the lab for five weeks. When they arrived for lunch, they were randomly given one of the following before lunch was served:
--A peeled, cut-up apple
--Apple juice with added fiber
--Apple juice without fiber
Each of these apple servings was about 125 calories. About 15 minutes later, they were served an entrée of cheese tortellini and tomato sauce.

The participants who ate the raw, cut-up apple pieces consumed 187 fewer calories than at the meals when they had applesauce, juice or nothing. "This suggests that eating something like a piece of fruit that's low in calories before your meal might be a great strategy for reducing calorie intake," researcher Julie Flood told USA Today. "It looks like solid fruit is more filling than fruit juice, and people perceive them differently. They look at an apple and think it's going to fill them up."

Why does this trick work? It's psychological more than anything. It's not the calories in the apple that make us feel full, but rather the act of eating. In fact, the Penn State team thinks the effect would have been even greater had they not cut off the apple peel. The research was presented at an October meeting of the Obesity Society, an organization of weight-control scientists and professionals.