Nutrition News! 3 Things We Learned at Food Matters Live 2018


by Dr Michelle de la Vega, PhD — Get free science updates here.

Alex Ruani (our research director) and I (Dr Michelle here!) were at Food Matters Live again this year, and had a fantastic time!

The food industry is growing so quickly and it’s amazing to see the role of science nutrition in the future of food. So here’s our summary of 3 key highlights we thought about sharing with you from Food Matters Live 2018:

1. Here’s how the UK is tackling obesity right now…

2. A few tricks to enhance satiety!

3. Is sustainable nutrition a pipe dream?

1. Here’s how the UK is tackling obesity right now…

You’ve probably read some of our previous posts about the growing obesity epidemic, including 3 frightening facts of being obese, how 4 in 10 may be obese by 2035, and how the UK government is planning measure to halve child obesity by 2030.

So where are we at now?

A number of food giants like Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Greggs have already started reducing the number of calories in their food and drink products, cutting down on the fat content and amount of sugar. This is an excellent start!

But what about micronutrients?

Little has been addressed on the micronutrient value of “low-fat, low-sugar, low-calorie” alternatives at Food Matters Live… which is quite concerning, since most of the world’s population is deficient in one or more of the essential micronutrients!

As individuals, with the right education, we can work to reduce obesity risk by helping others to make smarter food choices. This is something that many of you who completed our Advanced Clinical Weight Loss Practitioner certification are doing every day, both through your private clients and amazing community initiatives.

So keep going!

2. A few tricks to enhance satiety!

There are so many factors which influence satiety (how full we feel), such as taste, texture, protein content, fat content, hormone levels, genetics, and even our gut microbiome!

But it doesn’t end there!

An eye-opening session chaired by Professor Suzanne Higgs (from the University of Birmingham) gave us some incredible insights into new research in eating psychology and appetite neuroscience.

Since this is one her favourite topics, here’s Alex’s summary:

FIRST. Thick, viscous smoothies more satiating than thin juices?

Blending or juicing… Here’s a plus-point in favour of “blending” instead of juicing when it comes to satiation:

Dr Nikos Pagidas showed that we consume viscous drinks a lot slower compared to thin juices.

And because they take longer to drink, fewer calories go into our system.

Whereas thin juices are drank faster and often in larger amounts, with more calories going in.

So the texture, viscosity, and thickness of your smoothies matter!

SECOND. Could your diet be re-shaping your brain anatomically?

Now, this is a scary one…

When the “taste buds in the brain” (called tanacytes) perceive certain tastes like sweetness from sugar, they trigger the anatomical growth of certain brain areas that make us hungrier!

Similar results were seen for high-fat, low-protein diets…

Appetite neuroscientist Professor Nicholas Dale keeps investigating this via mice models and we can’t wait to see if this is also true in humans.

In the meantime, let’s keep that pudding as an occasional treat!

THIRD. Distracted eating gives us “food amnesia” and makes us eat more?

Yup. What we suspected all along has been proven by science…

Professor Suzanne Higgs explains how distractions may erase our memory of eating.

It appears that eating while distracted (working, talking, or watching TV) means that the brain doesn’t fully encode the pleasantness of each bite.

Usually the reward value of food decreases as we take in more and more bites.

But that decrease in pleasantness doesn’t happen during distracted eating, delaying fullness signals.

We look forward to more studies on this, including brain scans and hormonal profiling to get to the bottom of this!

3. Is sustainable nutrition a pipe dream?

As a vegan for over 14 years (Dr Michelle here!), this subject is close to my heart.

Sustainability has become a hot topic lately. With the population growing, many people are asking…

Will there be enough food to fill 9 billion bowls by 2050?

Which has led to scientists and laypersons alike to begin discussing sustainable diets and nutrition.

But what does “sustainable nutrition” even mean?

Sustainable nutrition is a pledge to fix broken food systems so all of us can eat nutritious foods while respecting our ecosystems for future generations to come.

In general, it comes down to 5 key factors:

  • respect for our environment (e.g. by reducing food waste), animals (e.g. animal welfare initiatives), and humans (e.g. protecting farmers from health hazards)
  • culturally acceptable (e.g. by raising awareness and being on this together and not in isolation)
  • affordable (so all of us can access nutritious foods)
  • available (so all of us can afford them)
  • nutritionally optimal (so we can all benefit from health and wellbeing)

Many people equate sustainable nutrition with a vegan or organic plant-based diet. But are the two synonymous?

Not necessarily.

Because if we go back to those 5 key factors, organic food can be quite expensive and not affordable by everyone.

This means that what is a sustainable diet for some may not be a sustainable diet for others. So here we have another phrase without a universal definition.

But if each of us do something (however small) it can add up to make a difference in the long run.

So what do you think?

What does “sustainable nutrition” mean to you?

Have you noticed “food amnesia” during distracted eating?

What about your clients? How are you helping them with their weight goals?

Tell us in the comments below!


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