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Devices that count bites during meals can help manage weight


Washington: Wearable technologies that allow users to keep track of the number of bites they take during a meal may help them lose weight by reducing overall food intake.

Researchers at Clemson University in the US wanted to analyse how providing bite count feedback might influence eaters in different situations and determine its efficacy in the presence of environmental cues linked to overeating. They found that people who received bite count feedback ate less and reduced their overall intake during a meal.

Researchers recruited young adults to consume a meal in their laboratory. Some were outfitted with bite count feedback devices and given either a small or large plate. The group that received bite count feedback significantly reduced their intake regardless of plate size, although, those given larger plates still consumed more than those given smaller plates. Larger plate sizes have been linked to overconsumption. While providing bite count feedback helped mitigate the known influence of plate size, it was not enough to overcome it completely.

“It was found that the presence of bite count feedback led to a reduction in overall consumption. This finding is consistent with current literature that shows feedback on consumption leads people to consume less,” said Phillip W Jasper, PhD candidate at the Clemson University.

“It was found that this type of feedback does not eliminate the effect of environment cues such as plate size,” said Jasper. “Individuals may eat less when they receive bite count feedback, but feedback alone may not be sufficient in terms of helping them to take an ‘appropriate’ or ‘normal’ number of bites, particularly in the presence of large plates,” he said. In the second round, subjects were given either a low-bite goal (12 bites) or a high-bite goal (22 bites) for their meal.

Interestingly, both groups met their goals, but the low-bite group took bigger bites, which resulted in both groups having comparable levels of consumption. This showed a complex relationship between bite count goals and energy intake. “It is possible that this compensatory behaviour is intentional, a reaction to a perceived limitation such that participants believed 12 bites to be too restricting of a goal,” said Jasper.

“In other words, in an effort to reach satiety while not surpassing the given goal, participants felt as though they needed to take larger bites than they typically would,” he said. Bite count feedback is an excellent weapon against the so-called “mindless margin,” or the amount people eat without really thinking about it.

By providing live insight into the number of bites, people will be more likely to stop eating when appropriately full and be more aware of what they are eating, researchers said. The findings were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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