May 27 2009

Tricks to curb your appetite

Obesity is such a BIG problem these days – no pun intended – that you hear about different tricks to curb your appetite and to lose weight.  Many are considered old wives’ tales, but if it is not dangerous, there’s nothing to lose.

For example, many of us were probably admonished by our parents for gulping down food too quickly.  I know parents are concerned about kids choking and all, but there may be more to it than just that.  It can be painful to swallow big bites of food without chewing properly.  But the chewing process is important for other reasons.  As you chew, your mouth releases many digestive enzymes.  These enzymes work to break down the food, but they also help to keep your teeth and gums clean.  When the food enters your stomach, there is less work for it to do.  Not only that, the stomach releases its own hormones to stimulate the brain and tell it that the body is hungry.  While you are chewing, these hormones are gradually suppressed so that your brain senses it is no longer hungry.  It means you eat less.  Unless you are one of those who likes to gorge even after your stomach is bulgingly full.  (I’ll admit I can be like that with some foods.)

Scientists are continually searching for the hunger triggers to try to find ways to combat the ever-growing problem of obesity.  They have now found another interesting trick to curb your appetite.  It appears that blending your food into a thick soup serves to keep your stomach satisfied longer, thereby, decreasing the chances that you will reach for those calorie-laden snacks to keep you going until dinner time.  In their research, they found that those who ate a solid meal, washing it down with water, remained satisfied for a shorter period than their counterparts who had the same meal (combined with the water) pureed into a soup.  The idea behind it is that the thick soup takes longer to be digested in the stomach, so it remains longer.  Water does not take any time to be digested, so it goes through the digestive tract quickly, while the solid food remains in the stomach.  However, if the water is combined into the soup, it remains in the stomach.

Sounds very interesting because it goes back to the previous tenet that chewing your food longer can help curb your appetite.  It may sound counter-intuitive since the soup and the well-chewed food would appear to take less time to be digested; therefore, you would get hungry quicker.  According to the research, the soup takes up more volume than the meal, once the water was washed away.  As for our old wives’ tale, it is a matter of timing.  It takes time for the stomach to send signals to the brain, telling it is satiated.  When you gulp your food, you do not allow your stomach time to do this.  Whereas, if you chew carefully and take your time, your stomach is able to send a signal to your brain in time. 

The stretching of the stomach also plays a role in obesity.  Those who eat a lot (such as those who inhale their food) stretch out their stomachs, such that it requires the same amount or more for the stomach to recognise that it is full.  This is the basis behind the stomach stapling surgery.  It intends to curb your appetite by making your stomach smaller.  For those who want to do it naturally, you simply cut back a little at a time until your stomach shrinks.  This is not the same as anorexics who abruptly cut back on their food intake.  That can be dangerous.  Weight loss of any kind should be done with the supervision of a doctor, as changes in your body may be detrimental to your health.