Participants who ate portion-controlled lunches did not compensate by eating more calories later in the day, leading researchers to believe the human body does not possess the mechanisms necessary to notice a small drop in energy intake.
"Making small reductions in energy intake to compensate for the increasing number of calories available in our food environment may help prevent further weight gain, and one way of doing this could be to consume portion-controlled lunches a few times a week," said doctoral student Carly Pacanowski, who co-authored the study with David Levitsky, Cornell professor of nutritional sciences and of psychology.
The study closely monitored the food intake of 17 volunteers who ate whatever they wanted from a buffet for one week. For the next two weeks, half the group selected their lunch by choosing from one of six commercially available, portion-controlled foods, such as Chef Boyardee Pasta or Campbell's Soup at Hand, but could eat as much as they wished at other meals or snacks. For the final two weeks, the other half of volunteers followed the same regimen.
While eating portion-controlled lunches, each participant consumed 250 fewer calories per day and lost, on average, 1.1 pounds.
"The results confirm that humans do not regulate energy intake with any precision. Over a year, such a regimen would result in losing at least 25 pounds," said Levitsky, who adds the study demonstrates one simple, low-cost way to consume fewer calories.The study is available online at:
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