Until recently, the common belief was that the main tendency in people is to overeat, no matter how calorically dense their food was. However, a recent study performed by the University of Bristol shows that humans instinctively adapt the size of their potion, based on how energy-rich the meal is.
According to the lead author of the study, Annika Flynn, a Doctoral Researcher in Nutrition and Behavior at the University of Bristol, cited by Medical Xpress, “for years we’ve believed that humans mindlessly overeat energy-rich meals. Remarkably, this study indicates a degree of nutritional intelligence whereby humans manage to adjust the amount they consume of high-energy density options.”
The study, which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was based on a trial with 20 healthy people, who were temporarily accommodated in a hospital ward. This allowed the research team to carefully prepare the meals they fed to the participants, monitoring the number of calories, grams and energy density for each portion of food.
The trial setting allowed them to observe that people would eat more of the meals with a low energy density, such as salads, than of those that were higher in calories and provided a higher level of energy, like pasta.
As the number of participants in the study was low and the unfolding conditions were supervised, the authors of the study also wanted to extend their research to the usual lives of the participants. In this way, they were also able to observe the behavior of people when they chose their own meals, with the results being similar to what they previously found.
The co-author of the study, Jeff Brunstrom, Professor of Experimental Psychology, stated that “this research gives added weight to the idea humans aren’t passive overeaters after all, but show the discerning ability to moderate how much of an energy-rich meal they consume.”