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'Sprinkle Diet' Study Suggests New Ways to Let Dieters to Feel Full More Quickly

June 16, 2008 -- Call it the "sprinkle" diet or the flavor-for-free diet.

If you sprinkle no-calorie seasonings and sweeteners on your foods, you will feel full faster, cut down on food consumption, and lose more weight than people who don't flavor their foods that way, according to a new study.

"The flavors may make people focus on the sensory characteristics of food -- smell and taste," says Alan Hirsch, MD, a Chicago neurologist and psychiatrist who is due to present the study findings this week at ENDO 08, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in San Francisco.

In his study, Hirsch found that overweight or obese people who used the zero-calorie flavorings lost an average of 30.5 pounds in six months, while those who didn't use them lost just 2 pounds. No dietary restrictions were given, although those in the study who were already on a diet and exercise program were allowed to continue.

Using the flavorings '"can actually cause a change in eating habits and behavior," says Hirsch. Sprinkling the calorie-free flavorings, he speculates, may make some healthy foods such as vegetables more palatable, making it easier to eat more of them.

The Sprinkle Diet: Feeling Full Faster

Hirsch, who is the founder of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, compared the weight loss between 1,436 participants who used the flavorings and a control group of 100 participants who did not use them. Participants were ages 19 to 55.

At the study start, Hirsch noted participants' weight and body mass index (BMI, which relates height to weight). At the start, participants had an average weight of 208 pounds and an average BMI of 34, considered obese.

Those using the flavorings were given four small bottles each week and told they could use them liberally. They could choose savory or sweet, although they didn't know the exact flavor. The savory choices, all salt-free, included cheddar cheese, onion, horseradish, ranch dressing, taco, and parmesan. Sweet choices included cocoa, spearmint, banana, strawberry, raspberry, and malt.

The concept? Enhancing the perceived flavor of the food makes you feel fuller faster and tells your brain to stop eating.

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