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Cut Calories with Calorie-free Beverages
For the most part, losing weight is about calories in versus calories out: eat fewer calories or burn more calories (or both) and you'll lose weight. So you would think that switching sweetened beverages like sodas for unsweetened beverages like diet sodas or water would be an obvious way to cut calories.

Drinking Sugary Beverages Makes You Gain Weight
Drinking too many sugar-sweetened soft drinks has been linked to overweight and obesity along with such chronic illnesses as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, gout, gallstones, and kidney disease. Research attempting to directly link sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas and sweetened fruit drinks to weight gain have been questioned because other factors can affect weight other than the beverages you drink.

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Affect More than Kids' Weight
You're probably well aware that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas or sweetened fruit juices can lead to overweight or obesity through the additional calories they contain. And you're probably also well aware that those who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk of health problems ranging from diabetes to heart disease to cancer.


 

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Beverages Aren't Satisfying



I've reported before on the observed link between soda intake and Body Mass Index. Researchers at Purdue University noted that soda is by no means the only beverage people drink. Also popular are those high-fat coffee drinks like lattes and blended cappuccinos, as well as high-protein sports drinks and specialized waters.

Do these drinks have the same effect on appetite and caloric intake later in the day as solid food?

Forty healthy men and women were recruited to take place in this eating study (Int J Obesity 2007;31(11):1688-1695). Half of the participants were overweight, while the other half were normal weight for their height (BMI less than 25). On six separate occasions the participants ate lunch in the laboratory and were served a standard chicken sandwich, then one of the following test items:

  • Watermelon or watermelon juice (calories primarily from carbohydrates)
  • Coconut or coconut milk (calories primarily from fat) or
  • Fat-free, low carbohydrate milk or cheese (calories primarily from protein)

The amount of calories each item contained was the same regardless of caloric source or whether it was liquid or solid. Overweight participants were given a slightly larger portion of the test items than the normal weight participants.

The volunteers were then asked to keep a detailed record of how hungry they felt at various intervals throughout the rest of the day and when and what they ate, if anything, the rest of the day.

The results are really interesting. Regardless of the type of calories consumed, when the subjects' lunches were supplemented with the test beverages, they ate more throughout the rest of the day than when they ate the solid version of the item. Remember, the amount of calories they consumed was the same regardless of whether those calories came in liquid or solid form, and whether they were from fat, carbohydrates, or protein.

That said, extra carbohydrates and proteins at lunch seemed to lead to smaller meals later in the day, while the extra fats seemed to have little or no effect on how much the subjects ate later in the day.

What this means for you

Beverages don't seem to fill you up even when they're better for you than sugary sodas (soups, on the other hand, seem to act on appetite like a solid rather than a liquid). Look carefully at your glass: how many calories are you taking in each day from what you drink? Since it appears that those beverages won't satisfy your need for calories, stick to water and get your proteins, carbs and fats from solid food.

First posted: November 7, 2007