Research suggests that taking only 100 bites of food a day will aid in healthy weight management, but some health experts say the quality of the bites is more important than quantity, Sumathi Reddy writes in the Wall Street Journal.
Counting your bites
A group of researchers from Clemson University have tested the theory and found that every bite taken by a man is equal to about 17 calories, while women consume about 11 calories per bite. (With 100 bites, daily caloric intake would total 1,700 for men and 1,100 for women. That meets the targets for a low-calorie diet, according to NIH.)
Although there was not a huge difference, the researchers found that participants who counted how many bites they took lost more weight than those who did not count bites. Researchers also found that people were better able to stick to the 100-bite maximum when they counted down from 100 instead of up from zero.
"One-hundred bites is really an average starting point, it's not going to work for everybody," says lead researcher Eric Muth, adding that the premise of the diet is to "get you to push the plate away a little bit...[bites are] very simple and people understand it."
Through their research, the group developed a watch-like device, the Bite Monitor, that counts how many bites a person takes with 90% accuracy, Muth says. "It's a little bit like a pedometer for your mouth," he says, adding that the device will be tested in a study funded by NIH.
But what's in a bite?
But Mayo Clinic endocrinologist Michael Jensen told Reddy he questions the usefulness of counting bites, since a bite of pizza is very different than a bite of salad. Moreover, people counting bites may simply take larger mouthfuls. Instead, he recommends that people take smaller bites and mindfully chew each one.
"If you're eating too fast, you're probably not chewing and enjoying your food very well and you're probably going to be more likely" to eat too much, says Jensen. Eating slowly also has digestive benefits, such as greater nutrition absorption and less acid reflux, some experts say.
"There's very strong evidence pointing to the importance of chewing… The nerves that feed into the muscles in the jaw connect to satiety areas in the brain," said Kathleen Melanson, director of the University of Rhode Island's Energy Balance Lab.
Some experts recommend chewing one's food 10 to 20 times before swallowing. A 2011 Chinese study found people who chewed their food 40 times had lower levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and higher levels of a hormone that reduces appetite than people who chewed 15 times.
"The higher amount of chewing that's required with more solid foods might contribute to the satiety effect," says Melanson.
Based on this concept, Swedish company Mando Group AB has developed a "talking" plate that monitors how quickly a person is eating and assesses his/her satiety. The plate is actually a small slender scale and computerized screen. When a diner eats too quickly, the plate alerts him or her to slow down. The plate also asks the diner throughout the meal how full he or she is feeling.
In a Mando Group AB study of 106 obese children using the plate, researchers found children lost about three times as much weight as children who received only diet and exercise recommendations. "We have found that the eating speed is much, much more important than what you actually put on the plate," says Cecilia Bergh, co-founder of Mando Group AB (Reddy, Wall Street Journal, 8/11).