New research has revealed the top three factors most likely to contribute to weight gain.
Obesity, or being overweight, is one of the leading risk factors for a number of health conditions and is associated with higher rates of death.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) estimates that two out of three Aussies (67 per cent) are either overweight or obese (36 per cent were overweight but not obese, while 31 per cent were classed as obese).
Obesity tends to be more common in older age groups. AIHW figures show around 16 per cent of adults aged 18 to 24 were overweight, compared with 41 per cent of people in the 65 to 74 age group.
Obesity is primarily caused by an ‘energy imbalance’, that is, consuming more calories than are being expended through physical movement.
Now, researchers from Harvard University have identified three meal characteristics that are causing people to consume extra calories.
In a study published in the journal Nature, the researchers analysed data collected from 35 individuals who had participated in two inpatient feeding studies. The participants were aged 18 to 50 and had maintained a stable weight for the previous six months.
The team found that a meal’s energy density, how quickly the meal was eaten and whether it contained ‘hyper-palatable’ foods (foods high in fat, sodium and sugar that are designed to feel rewarding to eat) had the greatest influence on caloric intake.
During the study, participants were fed a diet of either minimally processed foods or one with a mixture of ultra-processed and minimally processed foods. All participants were exposed to both diets on a seven-day rotating menu for two weeks at a time.
In the end, the researchers had data on the calorie density of the foods eaten, how much protein the foods had, how fast participants were eating and whether they were eating hyper-palatable foods.
The data showed high energy density, a high percentage of hyper-palatable foods and a high eating speed all combined to increase calorific intake regardless of overall diet type.
The results confirm something long promoted in nutrition – that eating a wide variety of minimally processed foods is best if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight. But they also confirm that taking your time to eat will lead to you consuming less.
Would you say you eat more processed or unprocessed foods? How fast do you typically eat a meal? Let us know in the comments section below.