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Food Research

Should Food Be Marketed As ‘Meals’ Instead Of ‘Snacks’ To Avoid Overeating?

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Woman eating donut

Would marketing food as ‘meals’ rather than ‘snacks’ reduce consumption and overeating? A new study seems to think so.

Led by University of Surrey Health Psychology professor Jane Ogden and featured in the journal Appetite (read abstract), the innovative, one-of-a-kind study examined the impact of labeling food products as ‘snacks’ or ‘meals.

Eighty participants to eat a pasta pot which was either labelled as a ‘snack’ or a ‘meal.’ Each pot was presented as a ‘snack’ that was eaten standing up from a plastic pot with a plastic fork or a ‘meal’ eaten from a ceramic plate and metal fork while seated at a table. Once consumed, participants were invited to take part in an additional taste test of different foods that included animal biscuits, hula hoops, M&M’s and mini cheddars.

Not only did the researchers find that those who ate the pasta labelled as a ‘snack’ consumed more at the taste test than when it was labelled as a ‘meal,’ but they also found that those who ate the ‘snack’ standing up consumed more (50 per cent more total mass, sweet mass and total calories and 100 per cent more M&M’s) than those who ate the pasta sitting down at a table. This intriguing results demonstrate that consumption — particularly when standing instead of sitting — is higher when a food is labelled as a snack rather than a meal.

This could be attributed this to a combination of factors. For one, the researchers believe that people are generally more easily distracted and less conscious of consumption when eating a snack. As another reason, our memories for snacks and meals may be encoded differently in our subconscious and we are less able to recall what we have eaten as a ‘snack.’

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Professor Ogden said in a statement:

“With our lives getting busier increasing numbers of people are eating on the go and consuming foods that are labelled as ‘snacks’ to sustain them. What we have found is that those who are consuming snacks are more likely to over eat as they may not realise or even remember what they have eaten.

“To overcome this we should call our food a meal and eat it as meal, helping make us more aware of what we are eating so that we don’t overeat later on.”

According to the World Health Organization, Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, and billions of dollars are spent every year on treatment for diabetes and conditions related to being overweight or obese.

A Datassential study found that not only are people eating more, but they tend overestimate the number of healthy snacks — like fruit, nuts, yogurt and vegetables — they eat per day. In fact, they eat more salty and crunchy snacks, with nearly half of the participants consuming at least one salty snack a day.

The University of Surrey provides yet more cold, hard facts about the health consequences of labeling. Snacking could result in overeating, which undoubtedly contributes to obesity and all associated health-related issues (e.g. diabetes, heart disease and hypertension). Consumers have their role to play, but so do those making our food.

Brands and retailers around the world could help in the fight against overeating and obesity by changing product labels, as well as shift merchandising and marketing efforts so food perceived more often as a meal rather than a snack, but this is probably wishful thinking. At the end of the day, with snacks and grab-and-go food being big business for the consumer packaged goods industry and retailers alike, there is just too much money at stake to warrant such a change on a large scale.

The best you and I can do is have the discipline to refrain from relying on snacks as our daily fuel, opting for proper, nutrient-rich food.

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Diet & Health

Improve Your Gut Health By Eating Mangoes

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Fresh Mango

If you suffer from constipation, a mango might just be what the doctor ordered.

A new pilot study carried out by Texas A & M University and published in the the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that mangoes contain a combination of polyphenols and fiber that is more effective than an equivalent amount of fiber powder in relieving constipation.

Susanne U. Mertens-Talcott, a corresponding author of the four-week study and an associate professor in the department of nutrition and food science at Texas A & M University, stated:

“Our findings suggest that mango offers an advantage over fiber supplements because of the bioactive polyphenols contained in mangos that helped reduce markers of inflammation and change the make-up of the microbiome, which includes trillions of bacteria and other microbes living in our digestive track. Fiber supplements and laxatives may aid in the treatment of constipation, but they may not fully address all symptoms, such as intestinal inflammation.”

Researchers took 36 adult men and women with chronic constipation and randomly divided them into two groups — a mango group that ate about 300 grams of mango a day (equivalent to about 2 cups or 1 mango) and a fiber group that incorporated the equivalent amount of fiber powder (1 teaspoon or 5 grams of dietary psyllium fiber supplement) into their daily diet.

A food questionnaire was then given to the participants to assess their food intake and ensure their eating habits remained consistent (i.e. equivalent amounts of calories, carbohydrates, fiber, protein and fat) and measures of constipation severity were taken at the beginning and end of four weeks.

Their analysis revealed that while both the mango and fiber groups improved over the course of the study, mangoes proved more effective in reducing the symptoms of constipation than fiber alone.

Mango supplementation significantly improved constipation status (e.g. stool frequency, consistency and shape), increased short chain fatty acids levels, which indicate improvement of intestinal microbial composition, and helped to reduce certain biomarkers of inflammation.

Mangoes have long been know to be a rich source of dietary fiber, but Texas A & M University’s study is possibly the only study ever to be dedicated to the efficacy of the tasty fruit at relieving constipation.

But as promising as these findings are, the researchers concluded that more research is needed to determine the exact mechanism behind the protective effect of mangoes in constipation and the role mango polyphenols may play in supporting the beneficial effects of fiber.

A mango day keeps your food moving smoothly and easily, right?

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Diet & Health

10 Signs You Are Allergic To Gluten

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Long Bread

Intolerance to gluten has been a running buzz in the healthy living circles for the past decade, and there is no sign of that changing. The condition can lead to detrimental health effects relating to the gut, skin and even nervous system, with the most common symptoms being depression, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems and pain.

Gluten is a protein found in such grains as wheat, rye, barley, spelt and is what makes bread light and fluffy and dough a sticky texture. Wheat and rye are most commonly found in cereal and bread, as well as in pasta in the case of the former and even beer, salad dressings and soups with the latter. Barley is often used in stock feed products.

Not only do all of these grains contain gluten, but they can also cause insensitivity to gluten. Unfortunately, they are a common part of the diets of millions, if not billions, of people around the world.

Gluten intolerance has also been associated with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that can cause damage to the small intestine, making it harder for the body to absorb nutrients. Around 1 out of 100 people suffer from the condition in the United States alone!

Fortunately, symptoms of gluten intolerance subside after removing gluten from one’s diet. Here are 10 of the most usual signs that you may be suffering from it:

1. Unexpected Weight Gain

Caused by malabsorption and gut permeability from the systemic inflammation triggered by the protein, unexpected weight gain is related to gluten intolerance. Sufferers who eliminate gluten from their diet will notice an improvement in their weight.

2. Brain Fog

In an article published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, one titled “Gluten sensitivity as a neurological illness,” researchers found that immunoglobins (AKA antibodies) react abnormally to gluten and the reaction contributes to reduced cognitive function.

3. Abnormal Immune function

The IgA antibodies, which are found in the gastrointestinal tract and saliva, are the body’s primary response to colds, flu or other illnesses. If you are gluten sensitive, these antibodies have a counter effect on your immune system, inhibiting its ability to properly defend against such illnesses.

4. Headaches, Migraines

A recent study discovered that 56 percent of the gluten intolerant participants suffered from migraines, while only 14% of the control group had the condition.

5. Dental Issues

A study published in the BMS Gastroenterology found that there is a connection between gluten intolerance and “aphthous stomatitis”, a condition characterized by the repeated formation of mouth ulcers and canker sores in otherwise healthy individuals. Malabsorption can cause gluten intolerant people to also have low calcium levels, which undermines oral health.

6. Skin Problems

Malabsorption resulting from gluten intolerance has been associated with eczema, acne and dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), with symptoms including redness, itching, rashes, burning and blisters. Described by the Gluten Intolerance Group as “a chronic disease of the skin marked by groups of watery, itchy blisters that might resemble pimples or blisters,” DH is a very difficult condition to have.

7. Joint And Muscle Aches

Researchers have long known that people with autoimmune forms of arthritis are at higher risk for celiac disease, and a growing body of research now finds that here is a possible connection between gluten and non-pathologic joint pain. When a person with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity eats gluten, the immune system jumps into action, causing inflammation.

8. Fatigue And Exhaustion

This symptom is similar to brain fog in that the mechanism involved are still a mystery. There is little scientific research on the the purported correlation between fatigue/exhaustion and gluten intolerance; however, the fact that fatigue is one of the most frequent symptoms mentioned by those with celiac or gluten sensitivity has led medical experts believe gluten intolerance can cause fatigue and exhaustion through inflammation likely because of de-allocation of the energy reserves.

9. Hormone Imbalances

Gluten is a known to disrupt a number of hormones, including estrogen, and has been linked to Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), abnormal PMS, and unexplained infertility. According a article published by the Gluten Free Society, the removal of gluten often resolves hormone imbalance.

10. Anxiety, Depression, ADD, Mood Swings

Depression and anxiety symptoms have been linked to gluten consumption in celiac sufferers, while one small study found that excess gluten possibly depleted the serotonin levels of non-celiac suffers, leading to feelings of depression.

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Food Research

Junk Food Is Two Times More Distracting Than Healthy Food

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Melting ice cream cone

That the average person has an implicit bias for fatty, sugary foods is nothing new, but did you know that images of junk food are almost twice as distracting as those of health food?

That’s what a new Johns Hopkins University study published online by the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review found at least, confirming the old adage that you shouldn’t grocery shop hungry.

Led by Corbin A. Cunningham, Distinguished Science of Learning Fellow in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Howard Egeth, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, the team of researchers first created a complicated computer task that rendered food irrelevant and required a group of participants to complete the task as quickly as possible. As the participants worked diligently, pictures of high-fat, high-calorie foods, healthy foods, or non-food items flashed in the periphery of the screen for only 125 milliseconds, which is too quick for people to fully realize what they just saw.

While all the pictures distracted people from the task, it was things like doughnuts, potato chips, cheese and candy that were found to be most the distracting — twice as distracting, in fact. The healthy food pictures — carrots, apples and salads, etc. — were no more distracting to people than non-foods like bicycles, lava lamps and footballs.

Junk food distracting

Egeth noted in a Johns Hopkins University article:

“We wanted to see if pictures of food, particularly high-fat, high-calorie food, would be a distraction for people engaged in a complicated task, so we showed them carrots and apples, and it slowed them down. We showed them bicycles and thumb tacks, and it slowed them down. But when we showed them chocolate cake and hot dogs, these things slowed them down about twice as much.”

To make things more interesting, the researchers then recreated the experiment, this time involving a new group of participants that were given two fun-sized candy bars to eat before starting the computer work. What they found surprised them — after eating the chocolate, people weren’t distracted by the high-fat, high-calorie food images any more than by healthy foods or other pictures.

One wonders if less chocolate or even other snacks would have the same effect. Egeth added:

“I assume it was because it was a delicious, high-fat, chocolatey snack. But what if we gave them an apple? What if we gave them a zero-calorie soda? What if we told the subjects they’d get money if they performed the task quickly, which would be a real incentive not to get distracted. Could junk food pictures override even that?”

According to Cunningham, the results demonstrate that even when food is entirely irrelevant, and even when people think they’re working hard and concentrating, food, especially junk food, has the power to sneak in and grab our attention — at least until we eat a little of it.

Are you surprised by the studies findings? Let us know in the comments below.

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