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Long meal times may not cut snacking: Study

By Mike Stones , 14-Mar-2011

Drawing out the length of a meal may not affect the amount of after-meal snacking, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition.

The researchers asked 38 young men and women, aged between 24 and 30, to eat the same meal in a controlled test kitchen on two separate days. The first was as a non-staggered meal consumed within 30 minutes; the second as a staggered meal, with up to 25-minute breaks between the three courses.

The test group enjoyed a salad, a macaroni dish with meat sauce, followed by vegetable lasagna and raspberry pudding for dessert. The meal consisted of 14% protein, 54% carbohydrate, and 32% fat.

Appetite signaling

Blood samples were drawn before, during, and after the meal to measure the levels of hormones involved in appetite signaling. The test group also answered questions about how sated or hungry they felt at points throughout the meals.

During the drawn-out meal, diners’ satiety hormones increased more gradually than after the non staggered meal, when the hormones spiked more rapidly.

Before the snacking period, participants who had eaten a drawn-out meal rated their satiety higher and their hunger lower. Also, this group’s levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases with hunger and is thought to stimulate appetite, were lower.

Then, two and a half hours after the beginning of the meal, the participants were offered treats such as apple cake, chocolate-covered marshmallows, peanuts, chips, and waffles.

Since the differences in hormone levels did not significantly affect the volume of sweet and salty snacks consumed by the diners, the researchers concluded that the availability of tempting foods overrides the body’s internal messages about when to stop eating.

Those who ate the long drawn out meal ate only 10% fewer snack calories than the diners who ate their meal quickly; a non-statistically significant difference.

Satiety ratings

But the researchers noted in the abstract of their study that: “… staggered compared with nonstaggered meal consumption induces less pronounced hormone and appetite dynamics. Moreover, it results in higher final GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide) concentrations and satiety ratings, lower ghrelin concentrations and hunger ratings, and lower food “wanting” prior to ad libitum food intake. However, this was not translated into lower energy intake.”

Study: Staggered Meal Consumption Facilitates Appetite Control without Affecting Postprandial Energy Intake

Source: The Journal of Nutrition

Authors: Sofie Lemmens , Eveline Martens , Jurriaan Born ,

Mieke Martens and Margriet Westerterp-Plantenga .

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