Fighting the flab might just be down to how you eat it rather than what you eat, researchers say.
According to scientists, the secret to beating the bulging seasonal waistline is to chew each mouthful of lunch for 30 seconds before swallowing it.
New research has shown that this has a powerful effect on appetite later in the day, curbing the desire for chocolates, sweets and snacks that can pile on the pounds over the Christmas break.
The volunteers of the study who chewed their lunch in this way during a recent experiment carried out by psychologists at the University of Birmingham ate half as many snacks in the afternoon as those who ate normally.
Although previous studies have shown chewing for longer curbs calorie intake during a meal, the latest research shows that it can also have a significant impact on snacking habits later in the day.
The Birmingham team wanted to assess how chewing for a longer period of time during lunch affected grazing habits later in the day.
They recruited 43 students, mostly female, and asked them to refrain from eating for two hours before the test and each student was then presented with a plate of smoked ham and cheese sandwiches, all identical in size and shape.
A third of the students were told to eat as they normally would, another third to pause for ten seconds between swallowing each mouthful and the last group to chew each bite for 30 seconds before swallowing.
Two hours after the experiment, the students were handed a small bowl of chewy, fruit flavoured sweets – Skittles – and a bowl of Minstrels, the candy-coated chocolate treats.
During the procedure, volunteers were asked to rate their appetite and enjoyment of the food.
The results showed that students who ate at their normal speed and those who stopped for ten seconds between bites ate the same amount of sweets, but those who chewed each mouthful of lunch for 30 seconds ate half as many.
However, the benefits came with a price because participants in the prolonged chewing group were less happy after lunch and had reduced ratings of lunch enjoyment, and pleasantness of the texture of lunch, as compared to the others.
One reason why this technique works may be that, by concentrating so much on the process of eating, the brain remembers lunch for longer and is less likely to signal the need for more food so soon afterwards.
The study has been published in the journal Appetite.
– India Times.