Boosting the flavour of your food with calorie-free seasonings and sweeteners may help in shedding those extra pounds, according to a new study.
According to Dr Alan Hirsch, founder and neurologic director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, flavouring food with calorie-free seasonings and sweeteners, may make people feel full faster and cut down their consumption.
The subjects in study lost an average of nearly 15 percent of their body weight.
Researchers focussed their study on "tastants," substances that can stimulate the sense of taste.
During the research, 2,436 overweight or obese individuals were to sprinkle a variety of savoury or sweet crystals on their food before eating their meals during the 6-month study period.
The subjects put liberal applications of the salt-free savoury flavors on salty foods and applied the sugar-free sweet crystals on sweet or neutral-tasting foods.
They did not know what the flavours were other than salty or sweet. The hidden flavours of the savoury tastants were cheddar cheese, onion, horseradish, ranch dressing, taco, or Parmesan. Sweet flavours were cocoa, spearmint, banana, strawberry, raspberry, and malt. A control group of 100 volunteers did not use tastants
Hirsch measured weight and body mass index (BMI), a measure of height and weight of the subjects before and after the study
The team found that the treatment group had an average weight of 208 pounds and average BMI of 34, which is considered obese.
After 6 months of using the crystals, the 1,436 subjects who completed the study lost an average of 30.5 pounds, compared with just 2 pounds for the untreated controls.
Their BMI dropped by an average of 5, moving them from obesity to the overweight range. Controls had an average BMI decrease of 0.3.
Hirsch theorized that subjects lost more weight than controls did because the tastants made them feel full faster and therefore eat less. Another possibility, he said, is that the crystals improved the taste of bland but healthy foods, such as tofu and some vegetables, causing a change toward healthier eating habits.
However, it is not clear whether the apparent weight loss benefits of the tastants would extend past 6 months or to people who weigh less than the obese subjects in this study.
"It could be that the percent of weight reduction would be lower in people who are less obese," Hirsch said. "In theory, tastants won't work for people who eat even when they're full and for people who have lost their sense of smell."
The results will be presented at The Endocrine Society's 90th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.