MEDICAL: People may eat less when food is cut into smaller pieces.

Portion control is a good way to reduce caloric intake

On its website, ABC News (7/11, Tackett) reports that for the study, presented at the international conference for the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, investigators “gave 301 hungry college students either a whole bagel or the same bagel cut into four separate pieces.”ABC World News (7/10, story 6, 0:35, Sawyer) reported on a new study suggesting that people may eat less when their food is cut into smaller pieces.

WebMD (7/11, DeNoon) reports, “The group that got the whole bagel ate a little more of it than those who got the cut-up bagel. But the real difference came 20 minutes later, when all of the students were offered a free meal.” The researchers found that “those who’d eaten the cut-up bagel — even though they’d eaten a little less — ate less of the free meal.”

Forum Medical Commentary.   By Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC

This is a funny little study which includes observations on college kids and rats.   The results are a little confusing, but cutting your food into small pieces, as with the college kids in the study, somehow promotes a feeling of satiety that has nothing to do with how full your stomach is.  In other words, mind games can  help you feel less hungry.

But this is nothing new.  When Eileen was a coed at the George Washington University in DC, she was trying to cut down on calories and on spending (so she could buy more clothes.)  She skipped breakfast, and after morning classes, would go to the campus hang-out: Quigley’s.   It was like a luncheonette.

Quigley’s on the GWU campus, Foggy Bottom, c. mid-1960’s

Eileen called it “brunch.”  She would sit at the counter and order a coffee and a small slice of pound cake.  She would then cut the cake into about ten pieces and then eat the pieces very slowly. The trick worked then,  and even now she is a very slow, methodical eater.  I, on the other hand, try to lose weight by shoveling large amounts of food into my mouth as quickly as possible.    Eileen  is more successful than I in controlling weight and  she also knows more about nutrition these days than when she was eating tiny pieces of cake at Quigley’s.

Our friend Carol from Randolph liked to take a tiny scoop of ice cream which she would eat slowly with a demitasse spoon.  This game caused her to feel  satisfied without eating a lot of that sinful stuff.

There are many elements that go into how many calories we consume.  Certainly the types of foods we eat are important;  for example a gram of fat contains more calories than a gram of carbs.  Also the amount of food we eat is critical, and that is where portion control is one method to promote weight loss.

Surgical procedures that reduce the size of the stomach also work by promoting satiety. Then you have methods that reduce one’s appetite, such as the old diet pills with amphetamines.  And don’t forget the other side of the equation:  burning calories through exercise.

As for the rats, they were pretty smart in the maze, and they don’t even go to college.

The bottom line is that weight control is difficult, and if you are motivated, there are many tools, methods and games at your disposal.  And, soon there will be a new diet pill available.

Soundtrack:  The Andrew Sisters with a depression era song about portion control: