Jewish World Review Feb. 11, 2003 / 9 Adar I, 5763

SLIM CHANCES: Women may get the same stomach-calming satisfaction from foods high in fiber but with fewer calories

By Bev Bennett | To quiet that growling stomach and keep you from feeling hungry when you're dieting, you may have been advised to add a little fat to your diet. Now researchers are discovering that women, at least, may get the same stomach-calming satisfaction from foods high in fiber but with fewer calories.

"If you eat a low- to moderate-fat meal plan with high fiber, you get a stronger satiety signal, and it lasts longer,'' says Barbara O. Schneeman, a professor of nutrition at the University of California at Davis.

In fact, fiber is so filling that people think it's more fattening than it is. Dietary fiber isn't fattening, Schneeman says, but it will make you feel full.

Her studiese, among the first to explain how fiber works to make you feel full, involve cholecystokinin, a hormone released from the small intestine when high-fat foods are eaten. The hormone may be the chemical "messenger'' that signals the brain that the body is getting full after eating foods containing fat.

Schneeman and her colleagues tested a theory that cholecystokinin is also released when you eat a meal high in dietary fiber. They fed seven men and eight women a series of breakfasts with different proportions of fat and fiber: low fiber/low fat; high fiber/low fat; and low fiber/high fat.

In women, the meals higher in fiber or in fat resulted in greater feelings of satiety and in significantly higher cholecystokinin responses than did the low-fat, low-fiber diets.

In men, the increase in cholecystokinin didn't differ between the meals.

"We're not quite sure what that difference between men and women meant,'' says Schneeman. "Food volume may influence the feeling of satiety for men.''

Once women understand how cholecystokinin functions they can use it as a tool in their weight-loss arsenal, she says. "We see the cholecystokinin response 20 to 30 minutes after eating, and it remains elevated for a period of time. If you're gulping down food in five or 10 minutes, you're not getting the response of cholecystokinin,'' she says.

Slowing down and waiting for the full feeling to come is a proven technique, according to the UC Davis research. "Most weight-loss programs tell people to slow down when they're eating,'' she says. "The signal is a powerful one if you let it work. You'll find dietary fiber in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Produce alone doesn't supply enough dietary fiber to quell hunger pangs.'' You need whole grains, as well, and legumes, such as garbanzo beans or kidney beans, she says. Volunteers in the research were given barley flakes and bean flakes, which both triggered a sustained elevation of cholecystokinin. Unfortunately neither is a common food ingredient. You're more likely to get your fiber by eating whole-grain foods.

Whole grains contain an outer coating that is high in fiber, a starchy middle and a germ that contains fat. Refined grains have the outer coating and germ removed, says Cathy Kapica, a senior scientist at Quaker Foods and Beverages in Chicago (the company did not sponsor Schneeman's research).

You have plenty of options for whole grains, but they're not always obvious.

"Most people associate whole grain with dark color. Color isn't the best indicator. Just because a bread is brown doesn't mean it's whole grain,'' says Kapica. Instead look for the phrase "whole grain'' on a label. Oatmeal, barley, brown rice and rye are whole grains.

Another tip is the health claim on the package. Foods that contain at least 51 percent whole-grain foods can carry a health message linking consumption of whole grains to a reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Bev Bennett is co-author of "The Dictionary of Healthful Food Terms'' Comment by clicking here.


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