Living Maintenance - Interesting study about nutrition labels

04-14-2014, 09:07 AM

Heard this story on NPR this morning. The gist of it is that they monitored levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin in two groups of people after drinking a milkshake. In one group, the milkshake was labeled as a healthy food with no fat or sugar and only 140 calories. In the other group, it was labeled as a decadent indulgence with 620 calories. The milkshake actually had 380 calories.

The group that drank the "decadent" shake had their ghrelin levels drop three times more than the people that drank the "healthy" shake. This means that they felt more satiated afterwards, less hungry, and their metabolism increased (because that is another effect of ghrelin). The people who drank the "healthy" shake were less satiated, more hungry, and slower metabolism after drinking the shake.

Here's the abstract from PubMed:
On 2 separate occasions, participants (n = 46) consumed a 380-calorie milkshake under the pretense that it was either a 620-calorie "indulgent" shake or a 140-calorie "sensible" shake. Ghrelin was measured via intravenous blood samples at 3 time points: baseline (20 min), anticipatory (60 min), and postconsumption (90 min). During the first interval (between 20 and 60 min) participants were asked to view and rate the (misleading) label of the shake. During the second interval (between 60 and 90 min) participants were asked to drink and rate the milkshake.
The mindset of indulgence produced a dramatically steeper decline in ghrelin after consuming the shake, whereas the mindset of sensibility produced a relatively flat ghrelin response. Participants' satiety was consistent with what they believed they were consuming rather than the actual nutritional value of what they consumed.

Link to the study:

Edit -- full text of the paper can be found here, I haven't read it yet:

04-14-2014, 09:37 AM
Brilliant! The implication is, what you believe about the food you eat affects your body's response to it. This could be a game-changer.

04-14-2014, 09:52 AM
Yes its interesting but you can't pretend something is healthy or unhealthy when you actually know its not.

Its sounds similar to the placebo effect. Certainly i think we know the way we think can affect reality in lots of ways but yes its a first i've heard it affect body chemicals in that way.

I wonder if it had any effect on any other hormones or processes re food.

The book i'm currently reading talks about leptin and the hypothalamus. I wonder which part of the brain the ghrelin hormone comes from. Its probably all linked up.

04-14-2014, 10:01 AM
I don't think anyone is saying that you can pretend food is OK (or for that matter, pretend it's not OK).

The people in the study weren't pretending--they believed what they were presented with on the labels.

The point is that what we think affects our bodies' responses more than we realize--and in a scientifically testable way.

04-14-2014, 10:02 AM
yes yes. i didn't read the link, its just that your commented suggested that idea. To me at least.

04-14-2014, 01:00 PM
Makes sense, I tried to do something like that in real life - sorta trick myself. However, the very knowledge of knowing that I was at a point where I was trying to trick myself into doing anything made me feel so low that it induced the opposite effect LOL!

Hm maybe if I had a very intuitive person do this to me, without my knowledge...=P

04-14-2014, 01:07 PM
What it shows brilliantly is that our head is a big part of how we perceive food - down to the chemicals we produce.

Shannon in ATL
04-14-2014, 02:38 PM
I completely believe that what we think about a food influences how we react to it. We can turn our nose up at a 'healthy' food and feel very uninspired about it, why wouldn't that influence the chemicals that our bodies produce?

I drink a protein shake for lunch several days a week at work. 340 calories, 42 grams of protein, 24 ounces in physical volume. I dread it every day. I'm always starving pretty much as soon as I'm done. I know it is good for me, but I believe it is gross. LOL

Today I grabbed a piece of grilled chicken a la carte from the restaurant - warm food, for a grey day. 200 calories, 38 grams of protein, smaller physical volume, I feel much more full and satisfied. I believe that I'm happier with the chicken, so I'm happier.

04-14-2014, 07:50 PM
I can't see how a diet can be successful if you find the food you are consuming gross. On the other hand, i wouldn't call a protein shake food really.

04-14-2014, 08:36 PM
That sounds like what I do every day. Recognize and indulgent treat as such, and I am satisfied by it 100% of the time. Never reaching for seconds or going for a binge. Kinda neat how simple that is.

04-14-2014, 08:38 PM
Thanks so much for sharing. Fascinating!!!

04-16-2014, 09:54 PM
I see this effect in myself very powerfully in the last year. When I first lost weight back in 2010-2011 1200 cal/day felt very do-able. Most days, I wasn't hungry between meals even with added exercise, and I did it for months and months. Some days I ate even less and even then didn't feel notably ravenous. I'm pretty sure that my sense of deprivation now stems far more from psychology than physiology. I've read WAAAY more about nutrition and weight loss/maintenance in the last 18 months, and the more often I read that 1200 cal is "near starvation" and should not be maintained for more than a few weeks at a time, how your body treats different macros differently (a calorie is not just a calorie), how important it is to calorie-cycle to avoid down-regulating your metabolism, and on and on and on, the more deprived I feel and the harder it is to keep my intake to the level I need in order to lose weight. I have managed to convince myself that I SHOULDN'T be able to survive on 1200 cals, and so that level of intake keeps me hungry and resentful. I have been reminding myself DAILY that I did this before successfully. My ghrelin levels need to drop now :>)

04-16-2014, 10:16 PM
paperclippy: Thank-you for the summary and links. This sounds like a game-changer for me right now.

neurodoc: you could have been writing about me. I've found it easy to absorb negatives about my WOE & wt. loss, from both reading and comments. In addition to the things you mentioned, comments like "you're getting too thin" added fuel to the hunger & resentment : )

04-16-2014, 10:30 PM
not for me neurodoc, I know if i were eating 1200 calories now i'd be hungry regardless of the info. But i know there have been times when i've survived on that or even less for months on end too. But what ended up happening after that was that i would get run down and start to get depressed and then i'd start to need to eat and eat.

Often there are other a lot of other factors in play so its not easy to see clearly what is at the root of the problem.

A couple of times i'm thinking of where when i was in india and on cycle journeys. In the beginning although cycling about 100 km per day most days, i was eating very little. And of course i got nice and skinny and lovely and fit but then something would change. I clearly starting to remember getting depressed in one of those situations but at the time i thought my new appetite for ice-cream and cake was only about finding something i could eat. since i had gone right off chilli and that's all that seems available.

But there were other symptoms like fatigue and feeling low and irritable and all those typical depression sign that i get.

Its only now i realise that the depression and all these symptoms was probably triggered by under nutrition from my low calorie rapid weightloss experience.

So i've been through this over and over again. And now because i finally understood the mechanisms behind rebound in appetite and weight, i accept this as the more likely underlying cause. So where i got this best was from the story about leptin from the nutrition wonderland website and more recently from Dr Amanda Sainsbury-Salis who's whole book is about defeating this cycle and about the impact of leptin. Its called the Don't Go Hungry Diet. Amanda is a PhD Molecular scientist who studied this stuff in Switzerland. She could also practice on herself as she was overweight when young. She's been able to keep it off for many years since putting her theories into practice she says. Her book is a combination of theory, science - but pretty easy for anyone to understand - , personal experience and anecdotes from clients who she took on to support as well.