Flavor and Variety: The Cutting Edge on Managing Your Diet

July 06, 2006

Flavor and Variety:  The Cutting Edge on Managing Your Diet 

 Competency # 5  The Way to Eat             Reference:   The Flavor Point Diet by David Katz 

Our brain likes variety.   Flavors are pleasant and fun.   If you stop to think about it for a minute, you will realize that you can validate this for yourself.  If you eat any one flavor or food, you will tire of it after a while.  (This does not relate to chocolate fudge ice cream at 10 pm)  As a general rule, think about any one food and ask yourself, how much you would eat given a large supply of it.  If I just fed you mashed potatoes….or just green beans, or just boiled eggs…..  You would tire after 4 boiled eggs, and stop.  You meal would have been much smaller. 

 Now think of Thanksgiving dinner.  Twelve different dishes.  You eat one for a while.  Get full on that one.  Switch to the stuffing.  Back to the turkey.  More sweat potatoes.  You can stuff yourself to a much greater degree if you eat one after another.  How about a Chinese lunch buffet?  Indian restaurants have magnificent lunch buffets.  I can eat some of all 18 dishes.  Three trips through the line, no problem for me. 

 There is a science to this. (Emerging and not widely accepted: but this newsletter is about the cutting edge and what’s new)   It has been researched in rats.  The “Sensory-specific satiety” center in your hypothalamus gets stimulated with each new flavor group.  It signals when it’s sated with one flavor.  Most of its response happens in the first few bites.  Then it fades away.  The more diverse a meal becomes, the more we can pack in because we switch from flavor to flavor.  Sweet, salty, sour, protein, back to sweet.  We’ve all had the situation when we eat till we are stuffed, and still have room for dessert.  Sweet flavors always inspire a strong response.  So you can save it to last and still find room.   

It’s hard to find ethics committees who approve putting probes into human hypothalamuses, so equivalent research in humans is difficult.  But your experience speaks to its validity. There is also proposed scientific evidence about satiety being related to volume and weight.  We eat to a certain volume and mass.  To a certain degree, we are bonded with that volume.  That means we have choices.  We can eat foods that are very dense in calories, and get a lot of calories in that volume.  Or we can choose lower-density foods.  But the choice is ours and these two tools can give you knowledge how to manage your own eating habits. 

 WWW.  What will work for me?  This changes my thinking.  I am trying to reduce the variety of foods at my meals.  And lower the calorie density.  That way I get fewer calories, still feel full, and am satisfied.  Cut out the deserts.  Copy the Chinese and Indians and serve fruit after a meal.  And if you are really pining for that ice cream, just have one teaspoon of it.  That’s what satisfies your brain's receptors anyways.  The rest of it is just late-night compulsive eating. 

 Reference:  This is a blatant advertisement for a really good book.  David Katz is just a genius about this.  He is a Yale University researcher on obesity and has just written a book called “The Flavor Point Diet”.  Add that to your summer reading list.  His wife is Catherine Katz is a PhD and chef who adds great recipes to support these ideas.  Or just follow the ideas I outlined.

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD,Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)