When our food tastes better, we might eat less. Maybe that doesn’t sound logical. But a new study of 2,436 overweight or obese people shows that at least some things that stimulate our sense of taste can help us to lose weight, which almost everyone with type 2 diabetes wants to do.
Alan Hirsch, MD, studied a variety of calorie-free seasonings and sweeteners that that can stimulate the sense of taste. Dr. Hirsch, the founder and neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, presented his findings at the recent annual meeting of The Endocrine Society.
The people in the study sprinkled savory or sweet crystals on their food before eating their meals during a six-month study period. While they knew that the flavors were either salty or sweet, they didn’t know anything more about them.
These hidden savory flavors were cheddar cheese, onion, horseradish, ranch dressing, taco, or Parmesan. The hidden sweet flavors were cocoa, spearmint, banana, strawberry, raspberry, or malt.
A control group of 100 people didn’t use these flavors. By the end of the study the treatment group lost an average of 30.5 pounds, while the control group lost just 2 pounds.
How could these flavorings possibly work so well to help people to lose weight?
The flavorings made them feel full faster, so they ate less, Dr. Hirsch thinks. But because the flavorings improved the taste of bland but healthy foods — like tofu and some veggies — the people in the study may have started eating a more healthy diet.
We can’t yet buy non-caloric flavorings like Dr. Hirsch used in his study. But all of us can use flavorings to enhance our senses of smell and taste in order to lose weight.
“Sniff your food before you eat it,” Dr. Hirsch advises. “Chew it a lot. And choose low-calorie foods and season them.”
All of us have our favorite low-calorie flavorings that we can use more of to eat less. Mine include mustard and jalapeño peppers.
But if you want to sleep soundly, skip the spices at dinner. It turns out that Tabasco sauce and mustard taken with the evening meal markedly disturbed sleep of people in one study. As soon as I learned about this study and began avoiding highly spiced dinners, my sleep greatly improved.
HealthCentral published an earlier version of this article.