Potato chips. Chocolate chip cookies. These are both examples of junk foods that people consume. A new study, published in a recent edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that limiting people´s choices for junk food helps them cut back on the amount of calories they eat, but doesn´t help them lose weight as people can make up the calories from restricted food groups by eating other types of food.
These results show that dieters cannot just limit their food variety; they also have to be aware of all the other calories that they are consuming.
“Limiting variety was helpful for reducing intake for that type of food group, but it appeared that compensation occurred in other parts of the diet,” said lead author Hollie Raynor, a professor at the University of Tennessee, in an article by Reuters Health.
Raynor also mentioned that people who tend to have less variety in diets are usually more successful in losing weight and keeping it off. With the study, she hoped to better understand if limiting options for high-calorie, low-nutrition foods like ice cream, cookies, and chips could be beneficial for people. 200 overweight and obese participants were asked to make adjustments in their diet and physical activity to help them lose weight. With the project, the participants attended regular group meetings to discuss their behavior, increased the amount of physical activity they did every day, and consumed a calorie-reduced diet. In particular, half the participants were asked to restrict their diet options as monotony can help inspire a lack of interest in food.
“It’s clear the more variety you have, the more you eat,” noted Alexandra Johnstone, a researcher at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland unaffiliated with the study, in the Reuters Health article.
The experiment was completed over an 18-month period and those who were asked to limit the types junk food ate less treats (two to three a day) as compared to the group that didn´t have that restriction (four a day). They also consumed fewer calories from junk food; in the six to twelve month period, the group with limited variety of foods ate 100 fewer calories from junk food a day while the other group ate 88 less calories from junk food a day. Both groups were able to lose weight due to the decrease in total calories consumed over the 18-motnh test period.
However, the total weight loss and the reduction in calories consumed were the same in both groups. Both lost 10 pounds over time, highlighting that reducing choices of junk food did not necessarily have any additional advantages or aided any other lifestyle changes. For a limited variety diet to be successful, people must also focus on limiting portion sizes during meal times.
“It makes sense to try and reduce the amount of variety in the diet, but human beings enjoy eating, so they will find other food components to consume than the ones that are being limited,” Johnstone explained to Reuters Health.
The researchers believe that more testing needs to be done to better gauge how people´s behaviors adjust when they are limited from having a specific type of food.
“Do they compensate or go, ‘OK, I’m just consuming less calories.’ It is an area we’re developing a better appreciation for,” Johnstone said in the Reuters Health article.