Eating the same food over and over again in successive meals could help people lose weight, according to the results of a study by Leonard Epstein of University of Buffalo and his colleagues. The study is published in the August 2011 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study presented subjects with macaroni and cheese they could earn by doing a mouse-clicking exercise. One group that was presented with the situation once every week ate more or a similar amount for each successive session.
Another group presented with the situation each day saw a sizable drop in their consumption for each successive session.
The researchers concluded that exposure to the same stimulus in a short amount of period, in this case macaroni and cheese, decreases the response to the stimulus.
Generally speaking, if a stimulus is painful, habituation/tolerance makes it more tolerable. If the stimulus is pleasant (like delicious food), habituation/tolerance makes it less enjoyable.
The ASN suggested that today's unprecedented level of dietary variety help explain skyrocketing rates of obesity, in a press release about the study.
The study pointed out that obese people reach food habituation slower than lean people, which further highlights the important role habituation plays in the obesity epidemic.
Moreover, the difference observed in the weekly group versus the daily group of the study illustrates that habituation wears off after a certain time period. In the case of food, it's one week or less, according to the results of the study.
The results of the study by Epstein and colleagues provides a very interesting new piece to the obesity puzzle by suggesting that meal monotony may actually lead to reduced calorie consumption. The trick will be balancing this concept with the importance of variety to good nutrition, said ASN Spokesperson Shelley McGuire.