You just ate a modest helping of southwestern chicken casserole. Hooray for healthy eating — you’re feeling pretty satisfied from this high-fiber, protein-packed meal. After all, studies support fiber and protein as being helpful for weight loss because they’re linked with greater satiety.
But sadly, recent findings from the University of Sheffield show that this may not be the case. That nutritious meal you’re eating may suppress your appetite for a few hours, but it may not make a dent in the number of calories you consume over the course of the day.
No Link Between Appetite and Calorie Intake — So What?
Researchers reviewed 462 studies that measured self-reported appetite and calorie intake. They wanted to know whether self-reported appetite (how full you say you are) really corresponds to calorie intake (how much you end up eating). Ideally, you would expect that if someone reports they were more satisfied from eating something that they would eat less of it.
The results proved to be a mixed bag: Researchers found that 51.3% of the studies failed to find a link between appetite and caloric intake, concluding that appetite is not a reliable predictor of total caloric intake, but we shouldn’t be surprised that this is the case. After all, how much we eat is complex and goes beyond how full we feel. Eating for emotional reasons, deep-rooted eating habits, your environment and food access can all affect how much you ultimately eat.
Appetite-Suppressing Foods and Weight Loss
The study’s findings imply that marketing claims about appetite-suppressing properties in certain foods may be misleading. In a release, lead author Dr. Bernard Corfe said: “The food industry is littered with products which are marketed on the basis of their appetite-modifying properties. Whilst these claims may be true, they shouldn’t be extended to imply that energy intake will be reduced as a result.” So, does that mean you shouldn’t strive to meet your fiber goals or eat quality lean protein? Of course not!
A good weight-loss strategy includes choosing foods that help you manage hunger. For example, which breakfast option would work better at keeping your hunger at bay until lunch: a bowl of sugary cereal or a bowl of high-fiber oats? Oats are the sure winner! As this post explains, not all calories and carbohydrates are created equal. Complex carbohydrates like oats are minimally processed and high in fiber and nutrients, while refined carbohydrates like sugary cereal are highly processed and low in fiber and nutrients. Fiber keeps bowel movements regular, regulates blood sugar levels and slows digestion (making us feel fuller for longer). Furthermore, refined carbohydrates are typically higher in sugar, which can deter weight-loss goals, fuel sugar addiction and promote diabetes and fatty liver disease.
This study does imply that appetite can be a poor indicator of how much you end up eating. Not all of us are lucky enough to be in tune with hunger cues, which may be why we overeat. To help you keep track of how much you’re actually putting into your body, track your food in MyFitnessPal. It may also help you learn how different foods affect your appetite on your journey toward better health.