Cutting Up at the Table

Gretchen Becker Health Guide
  • Science news alerting sites are constantly promising that some dietary change or other will cure diabetes or prevent diabetes or prevent obesity or make you lose weight faster.


    I’m not talking about real scams,  the kind that promise miracles cures if you spend a lot of money on their expensive supplements. I’m talking about the studies that show that something like cinnamon or blueberries or turmeric will improve your blood glucose (BG) levels or reduce your risk of heart disease.


    It usually turns out that yes, in the study in which they gave patients huge amounts of extracts of the foods there was a small difference in results. But just sprinkling a little cinnamon on your food probably won’t make much difference.

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    Hence when I saw a headline saying, “Multiple Pieces of Food Are More Rewarding Than an Equicaloric Single Piece of Food in Both Animals and Humans,” I was skeptical. “Yeah, right,” I thought. Still, there was no harm in trying, so I did the following experiment.


    I’d just bought some baked ham that came in thin slices. So I at one slice of the ham and counted how long I chewed the meat. It was about 30 chews. Then I had four slices of the ham stacked on each other, so the size of the pieces was about the same. With four times as much meat, I’d expect four times more chewing, or 120 chews.


    But instead, I wanted to swallow after only about 80 chews.


    My first hypothesis had been that most of us find putting food into our mouths to be enjoyable. And if you cut your food up into small pieces, you’d put food into your mouth more times, and hence get more enjoyment.


    But my experiment (admittedly, hardly very scientific) suggested another factor: more chewing. Most of us find chewing to be enjoyable. This is one problem with liquid diets. You miss the chewing. Maybe we eat too much because our food is too tender so we don’t need to chew it very much.


    Cutting your food into smaller pieces would have another benefit for people who tend to wolf their food down. It would extend the time it took to finish the meal. And because it takes about 15 or 20 minutes for satiety signals to kick in, it would mean you’d finish the meal less hungry.


    The good thing about this approach is that it’s unlikely to cause harm. Even if it doesn’t work, it won’t add or take away any nutrients. Of course, your knives might wear out sooner, but wearing out my knives is not something I worry a lot about. Or used to. Now that I think of it, maybe I should add knife dulling to my long list of daily worries. Or not. This drought is enough for my brain to cope with right now.

Published On: July 23, 2012