What Makes You Eat More Calories? Let’s Find Out!

Do you ever wonder why some meals leave you feeling satisfied while others make you want to keep eating? A recent study aimed to unravel the mystery behind what determines our calorie intake. The findings might surprise you and challenge some of your beliefs.

The researchers discovered that certain factors were consistently linked to how many calories people consumed. These factors included the energy density of food (how many calories are packed into a gram), the presence of hyperpalatable foods (tempting and tasty treats), and the speed at which we eat. These findings make sense and align with what we would expect.

However, there was one unexpected twist involving protein. For years, we believed that a high-protein meal would make us feel fuller for longer and help control our appetite. But the study’s results challenged this notion.

Let’s take a closer look at the study to understand its implications.

Understanding Protein

Protein has long been considered a key player in managing weight and controlling hunger. It was believed that a protein-rich meal would increase both satiation (feeling full while eating) and satiety (feeling full between meals). This idea made protein a popular recommendation for weight management and appetite control.

To explore the relationship between diet and calorie intake, researchers analysed data from two experiments. The participants in these experiments were given different diets, including unprocessed and hyper-palatable foods, low-fat and low-carb options, and a mix of plant-based and animal-based foods.

The researchers examined four variables to understand their impact on satiation and satiety: energy density, hyper-palatable content, eating rate, and protein content. They found that energy density, hyper-palatable content, and eating rate were consistently related to higher calorie consumption. These findings were expected and in line with previous knowledge.

The Protein Puzzle

The real surprise came when analysing the effects of protein. In diets with balanced fat and carbs, a higher protein intake was associated with more eating. This was unexpected, especially since these diets included both processed and unprocessed foods. However, the effect of protein on calorie consumption was minimal in low-carb and low-fat diets, which used mostly unprocessed foods.

When it came to satiety (feeling full between meals), protein intake at one meal was linked to higher calorie intake at the subsequent meal in low-carb and low-fat diets. This contradicted what we believed about protein’s role in reducing hunger.

Deciphering the Results

Understanding the study can be challenging due to its complexity and conflicting findings. The researchers themselves expressed surprise and confusion over the protein results. They offered potential explanations, including the need for a higher protein intake range, the influence of highly processed foods on protein effects, and the possibility of longer-term effects on satiety.

The Takeaways

1. Protein isn’t a magic solution for weight management.

While protein offers many benefits, including muscle repair and hormone production, this study suggests that its impact on satiety might not be as significant as previously believed. However, it’s important to note that this study wasn’t specifically designed to explore satiety. Therefore, we should not rely solely on this study to change our eating habits or give advice to clients.

2. Energy density and hyper-palatable foods play a crucial role.

The study reaffirms that the energy density of food and the presence of hyper-palatable treats strongly influence calorie intake. Foods high in fat tend to have higher energy density, and while some, like nuts and avocados, are nutritious, others, like pastries, should be consumed in moderation. Hyper-palatable foods, often found in snack aisles and drive-throughs, should be enjoyed mindfully, considering both pleasure and calories.

3. Slow down your eating pace.

While eating rate has a slightly less significant impact on calorie consumption compared to energy density and hyper-palatable foods, it remains consistent across different diets. Slowing down and savoring your meals can contribute to better weight management, regardless of your preferred eating pattern.

In conclusion, understanding what influences our calorie intake is a complex endeavor. This study sheds light on some unexpected findings regarding protein’s impact on satiety. While more research is needed, it’s clear that factors like energy density, hyper-palatable foods, and eating rate play significant roles in how much we eat. By being mindful of these factors, we can make better choices to support our health and weight management goals.