Dispatches from the Diet Wars

Why we eat the way we do

Healthy Eating

Dispatches from the Diet Wars

Why we eat the way we do

-Susan Crandell

salad and friesHere are some health findings of the past few months that are enough to make you scream – things to watch out for as you try to keep on the straight and narrow with a healthy plan of eating and exercise.

Stay with me, though, as there’s good news at the end.

Salads make us order french fries. At last fast-food chains are offering healthy fare like salads, but too many of us think that merely being in the presence of healthy food will do the trick. In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the number of subjects who ordered fries when the menu also included salad jumped by 23 percent. Only 10 percent had fries on the no-salad menu; 33 percent did when a salad was on offer.

Fast eaters eat more. No big surprise here, but recent research at Osaka University in Japan and reported in the British Medical Journal confirms that when we eat fast, we eat more. The three-year study of 3,000 women and men found that those who ate their meals in five minutes or less were three times more likely to become fat. It takes about 20 minutes for satiety hormones to kick in, so if you eat too quickly, you’re likely to eat too much too.

Mentioning fitness makes us fat. In an imaginative study at the University of Illinois published in the journal, Obesity, subjects were given raisins after evaluating a series of posters. The group whose posters advertised an exercise campaign ate 50 percent more raisins than the other group, who saw similar images with no mention of exercise. In another test, subjects exposed to words associated with exercise ate more food afterward than a group that heard neutral words.

cold-water swimmingFitness makes us fat. Well, swimming anyhow. A study by Loughborough University in Leicestershire, UK, found that swimming in cold water made subjects crave high-fat foods. On the bright side, other forms of exercise had no impact on appetite, and running actually depressed hunger. Researchers theorize that the body is trying to improve performance, which for runners means low body weight and for cold-water swimmers, more protective fat. Five K, anyone?

The promised good news. Fat cells burn calories. It was long believed that “brown fat cells,” which burn calories to warm the body, disappear after infancy. Now a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine finds that grown-ups have brown fat too. In adults, it’s distributed along the upper back, the sides of the neck and along the spine, offering a whole new explanation for bra bulge. Scientists hope to develop a way to activate brown fat cells for weight loss. Meantime, I’m going to turn my thermostat down!

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