Eat less but still feel full: How you can drop pounds by playing tricks on your brain

As fatness rates continue to rise, nutritional scientists in labs around the world are trying to answer the question: what fills us up?

How we can become satisfied on good foods – in other words, eat a smaller amount and feel less hungry – has become the big question,’ says obesity specialist Dr Alex Johnstone, of the Rowett Institute for Nutrition and Health in Aberdeen. “.

And where the scientists tramp, food and supplement manufacturers soon follow..

Get into good habits: Tricks such as eating an apple before your meal and dining on your own can make you feel more fulfilled from your food.

Britons spent £45 million last year on ‘satiety’ products designed to fill your gut and quell your appetite .

One of the first retailers on the satiety bandwagon was M&S, which early this year launched the suffer Fuller For Longer range based on Dr Johnstone’s work. The meals are high in protein, which is filling, but not high in calories.

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‘It’s one of our most popular launches because it’s an easy way to plug the hunger pangs that usually lead to diets fault,’ says M&S nutritionist Claire Hughes.

But everyday foods can plug the gap just as well; as shown by research from San Diego University’s School of train and Nutritional Sciences, which compared the feelings of completeness generated by eating plums and biscuits – and the plums amazingly, won hands down.

Two hours after eating, the volunteers given the plums feel less hungry and had less of the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin in their blood when tested.

Interestingly, taking commercial appetite suppressants may not work as well as the right foods.

The irony is that we shouldn’t actually need to worry about satiety because as babies and toddlers we are very responsive to satiety cues and ‘tend to stop eating when the biological signals put the boot in ‘, explains Marion Hetherington, professor of biopsychology at Leeds University.

But that sympathy starts to decrease from the age of around three.’ This is when the parental heaviness to ‘eat it all up’ is applied and food is offered as a reward between meals, displacing internal cues.

This parental ‘programming’ may also explain why bottle-feed babies – urged by mothers to use up the bottle – learn to override their satiety signals and put on weight more quickly, according to Child Growth Foundation figures.

As we get fatter, we have lower levels of a key ‘full-up’ hormone in the brain, known as PYY.

‘Just being overweight decreases PYY, so the satiety signals are slower to kick in,’ says Dr Rachel Batterham, who carried out the original research on the hormone.

Dr Batterham, who runs the weight-loss clinic at University College Hospital London, has shown, through brain scans, that being overweight depletes PYY production, and blunts the pleasure systems in the brain.

That means more sweet and fatty food is needed to get the same pleasant sensations from eating. And when overweight people diet, their level of the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin shoots up (a survival mechanism to give their heavy bodies the energy they demand), making them more hungry, adds Dr Batterham.

But elevated satiety, low-calorie foods can help. Here we look at the latest evidence on how you can trick your body into thinking you are full.

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