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High-carb, high satiety?

A common refrain is that carbs make you gain weight, and are too easy to overconsume. Luckily, this line of thinking can be tested in a randomized trial

Study under review: Differing effects of high-fat or highcarbohydrate meals on food hedonics in overweight and obese individuals


Overeating can be a much more complex phenomenon than you’d think. Figure 1 shows an extremely simplified framework of food intake regulation. Each category listed comprises many, many variables. Fiber content[1], palatability[2], convenience[3], and even eating with friends[4] can all alter our food consumption. One obvious variable that plays a major role is satiety. Satiety is the feeling of fullness experienced after having a meal. As we eat, signals from the digestive system tell the brain about the quantity and quality of what was eaten. The brain integrates these signals, and as they build over the course of a meal, the brain generates a growing feeling of satiety. However, there are other factors at play that can generate different levels of satiety.

Figure 1: Regulation of food intake in an obesogenic environment

Adapted from: Finlayson et al. Curr Obes Rep. 2012 Mar.

Macronutrient composition and food hedonics are two such factors. Food hedonics is comprised of food liking and food wanting. Food liking is the “perceived pleasurable sensory properties of food” such as taste, smell, and texture. Food wanting is the “attraction towards a specific food over available alternatives”.

It has been established that protein consistently exhibits the most pronounced effect on satiety of the three macronutrients. Carbohydrates and fat deliver the same amount of satiety per calorie[5] when caloric density and palatability are matched. High-fat foods do commonly exhibit lower satiety per calorie, but that appears to be due to calorie-density and palatability. The metabolic and behavioral mechanisms that lead to the overconsumption of calorically dense foods are not fully understood. It is possible that the hedonic value of foods prior to consuming a meal can influence appetite and caloric intake.

The hedonic value of food liking and food wanting was evaluated in this study. The current body of evidence examining the effects of food macronutrient composition on hedonics are somewhat mixed. There remains some debate over the contributions of dietary fat and carbohydrate in the promotion of overconsumption, and there hasn’t been much research on the interaction between food hedonics and macronutrient content. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine the effect of meals differing in dietary fat and carbohydrate on caloric intake, satiety, and food hedonics in people who are overweight or obese. Illuminating these effects could provide further tools to people attempting to lose weight.

Many variables affect how much food we consume. These include feelings of satiety and the hedonic value of food, food liking and food wanting. The purpose of this study was to investigate how manipulating macronutrient composition of meals throughout the day would affect satiety and the hedonic response to a subsequent food exposure in people who were overweight or obese.

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