A recent study featured in the Nutrition Journal titledChanging Perceptions of Hunger on a High Nutrient Density Diet, explored the effects of a high nutrient density diet on participants' perception of hunger. The pilot study aimed to provide further insights into a society that over-eats food yet starves for nutrients. Participants were counseled to increase the nutrient density in their diet via increased consumption of greens and other nutrient rich plant foods. The hypothesis was that increased amounts of micronutrients, phytonutrients and anti-oxidants in the diet would decrease hunger and consequent overeating.
Processed foods were discouraged while on the diet. This means the diet was higher in satiating fiber from fruits, veggies and legumes. Conversely, the diet was lower in sugars and refined oils and fats that are delicious, non-nutritious and often over-eaten. As the authors put it,
" A "dopaminic high" [1,2] from ingestion of high calorically concentrated sweets and fats has been documented and leads to subsequent craving of these foods."
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with rewards. The "dopaminic high" means that processed foods are "reward" foods. We eat them in an addictive manner because they temporarily increase dopamine in the brain and it makes us feel good. Then our dopamine levels crash and we go back to the "reward" foods that we know will make us feel good again. Sound familiar anyone?
Participants on the high nutrient density diet found themselves to have less fluctuations in mood, reported less irritability and unpleasantness. This coincided with less hunger pains, less hunger when meals were skipped, less hunger between meals, and less hunger frequency. Funny. Eating real foods makes us more mentally stable and less hungry.
However, and possibly to the detriment of the study, animal foods were discouraged on the "high nutrient density diet." Even though animal foods are some of the most nutritious on the planet. Liver anyone? I say this is possibly to the detriment because healthy animals are inherently nutritious and satiating. It has widely been shown thatprotein is the most satiating of nutrients [3, 4]. while refined carbohydrates are the least.
I contend that fat is one of the most satiating nutrients but was unable to back-up this
belief with compelling research. All of the studies (which were less than 4 weeks long) showed fat to have little or no effect on satiety and some even showed it to decrease satiety. Also, the studies don't really include high-fat diets. (I guess the ethics commitees don't want to give participants heart disease COUGH COUGH) Rather they would include a high fat meal here or there or a quasi-high fat diet (like 50% calories from fat) Perhaps if the studies went over a longer period of time on higher fat diets they would see what I would expect. The participants lose weight because they are no longer hungry!
Being a "fat-burner" opposed to a sugar burner sets one up for increased ability to fast or skip meals without irritation, mood fluctuations and intense hunger pains. One can simply skip a meal and allow their hormone sensitive lipaseto break down their fat stores for use as energy. Hmnnn, this sounds appealing, supplementing the diet with ones fat stores...sounds like fat-loss! The "fat-burners" adaptive body is able to easily and readily dip into fat reserves without horrible side effects in times where food is scarce. Think caveman surviving through the ice age; mammoth was not served in 4-6 small meals per day.
A "sugar-burner" on the other hand (one who eats a high-carbohydrate diet like that recommended by the USDA) will experience drop offs in energy, mood and intense hunger pains that are associated with hypoglycemia. You see, all carbohydrate breaks down into glucose in the human body. Glucose is a sugar, hence "sugar-burners." When highly refined carbohydrates are consumed (think bagel) you get a surge of sugar into the blood- stream which is counteracted with a surge of insulin. In "rebound hypoglycemia" the insulin drives sugar out of the blood stream so effectively that you go from hyper-glycemia to hypoglycemia. So after your Chinese food buffet where you gorged on 2,000 calories you are paradoxically hungry just 2 hours later.
This brings us back to my contention that FAT IS SATIATING. Research will hopefully catch up with this belief of mine that I hold as fact from experience. If any readers can provide ample research please do share.
So protein is all over the literature as being satiating. A main "protein" they study is the standard egg. However, the egg is 63% fat!Yet researchers still credit the protein content for providing the satiety.
One may argue that satiety is the main mechanism of long-term weight loss in a diet/lifestyle. This has to be considered as a main reason why the lower-carbohydrate diets work so effectively in lowering weight. You simply are not hungry on a properly executed lower-carb lifestyle. This is not simply anecdotal the research supports this as evidenced bythis Stanford University run study. Christopher Gardner, the lead investigator who at the beginning of the study was an admitted vegetarian (higher-carb), found that the Atkins diet was the best diet for weight loss and improving health parameters. The results showed that the higher fat in the diet, the more weight loss. As Dr. Gardner put it, it's not all about weight loss, it's about improving health. "There is no group that did better than Atkins in anything! Not cholesterol, not blood pressure, not insulin, not glucose." Schwew.
There is a lot more to this study than the few sentences I devoted. Watch!
What helps you stay satieted? What strategies do you use to curb your appetite? Find what works for you and stick with it.
Bello NT, Hajnal A. Dopamine and binge eating behaviors. Pharmacology Biochemistry and behavior. 2010. in press Corrected Proof.
Berthoud HR. Neural control of appetite: cross-talk between homeostatic and non-homeostatic systems. Appetite. 2004;43:315–317. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2004.04.009.Major GC, Doucet E, Jacqmain M, St-Onge M,Bouchard C, Tremblay A, Major GC, Doucet E, Jacqmain M, St-Onge M. et al. Multivitamin and dietary supplements, body weight and appetite: results from a cross-sectional and a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled study. British Journal of Nutrition. 2008;99:1157–1167. doi:
(4)Leidy HJ, Tang M, Armstrong CLH, Martin CB, Cambell WW.The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity. 2011;19:818-824.