'Energy Density' -- Not Fat -- Is Key To Feeling Full While Managing Weight

University Park, Pa. - Eating your usual amount but selecting low energy density meals, which have fewer calories per ounce and contain lots of fruits, vegetables or grains, offers a way to cut back on calories and still leave the table feeling full and satisfied, a Penn State study suggests.

Dr. Barbara Rolls, who holds the Guthrie Chair in Nutrition, directed the study. She says, "You need to eat a satisfying amount of food to control hunger. Fat can make food taste good but it doesn't necessarily make you feel satiated."

The study is detailed in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in a paper, "Energy density but not fat content of foods affected energy intake in lean and obese women." The authors are Rolls, Elizabeth A. Bell, doctoral candidate in nutrition; Victoria H. Castellanos, former postdoctoral student; Mosuk Chow, assistant professor of biostatistics; Christine L. Pelkman, doctoral candidate in biobehavioral health; and Michelle L. Thorwart, research technologist.

"When we first started this study, we thought that fat played an important role in satiety. We found that, when you keep the calories and volume of food that a person eats fairly constant, you don't see any special effects for fat in terms of reducing hunger."

Rolls, a faculty member in The College of Health and Human Development, added, "This experimental design closely resembles real-life situations in which a person who is concerned about his or her food intake may select some foods that are reduced in fat or calories but may also consume high-fat or high-calorie foods."

The women who participated in the study ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in Penn State's nutrition laboratories four days a week for five weeks. The study included both lean and obese individuals between 18 and 45 years of age. While the obese individuals ate more overall than the lean ones, each of the women tended to eat the same amoun

Contact: Barbara Hale
Penn State

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