Eat Hard, Lose Weight
Elena Moiseeva/Hemera/Thinkstock

Read our COVID-19 research and news.

ScienceShot: Eat Hard, Lose Weight

You’ve heard of fast food and maybe slow food, but how about hard food? A new study suggests that the tougher food is to eat, the less we consume—and the fewer pounds we pack on. The work was inspired by the growing obesity epidemic; World Health Organization statistics suggest that obesity has nearly doubled globally since 1980, a trend many blame on an expanded array of processed foods, including high-calorie energy drinks, and a tendency to devour food quickly rather than take the time to cook and savor a healthy meal. So a team of researchers wondered whether changing the texture of food might make a difference. On two consecutive days, the scientists fed 50 healthy 20-somethings a lunch of hamburgers and a side of rice with vegetables. On one of the two days, each participant was served a soft bun and boiled vegetables, while on the other they ate a hard bun and raw vegetables. Each day concluded with a dinner of noodles, chicken, and vegetables 5 hours later. When they ate the tougher-to-chew lunch, participants consumed about 90 fewer calories on average, a drop of about 13% compared with the softer lunch. What’s more, they ate about the same amount for dinner both days, meaning they didn’t compensate with a larger dinner after a smaller, chewier lunch. Writing this week in PLOS ONE, the authors say their results suggest that slight changes in food texture could lead people to take in fewer calories in the long term, possibly helping them lose weight. Eating less, it turns out, might be as simple as eating hard.

See more ScienceShots.