Put down that not-so-smartphone!

This post is from DiSH Intern Rachel:

Why leave the couch when you’ve got all you needs on your “smartphone”? With the ever-present temptation of new smartphone technology, it can be difficult to remember the basics of exercise and nutrition. A recent study at Kent State University showed a strong correlation between phone usage and fit lifestyles. The study surveyed 300 college students on their daily cell phone usage and activity level. Sure enough, those who spent as much as 14 hours per day on their phones proved to be much less active than those averaging about 90 minutes per day. Despite the convenient size and portability of today’s phones, they still greatly contribute to an unhealthy, sluggish lifestyle.


Research that Changed Research: Restrained and Unrestrained Eating

We know that everyone has different eating habits. Some people eat very little to feel full while others eat a lot. And considering the spectrum of disordered eating, we know that some people eat less than or more than they should. However, is there something different about the eating behavior of people of different sizes, such as that of an overweight individuals? Herman and Mack’s classic experiment with milkshakes and ice cream provided a breakthrough response in their study “Restrained and Unrestrained Eating.”

In this study, 45 subjects were randomly assigned to three preload conditions: 0 milkshakes, 1 milkshakes, or 3 milkshakes. After the preload, subjects were give three 3-pint container of ice cream in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors. The subjects were simply told that the experiment was a “taste” test, and were given the instruction to rate each flavor. After the ratings were provided, subjects were welcomed to eat as much ice cream as they want until the ten minute time mark. A eating habit questionnaire was administered after the taste ratings.

Of course, the actually variable being measured is the amount of ice cream eaten after the preload. The data showed that those with high restraint consumed more ice cream after a preload while those with low restraint consumed decreasing amount of ice cream depending on the amount of preload. The following passage is from the original article:

“In any event, we may conclude that despite the weak correlation between restraint and percent overweight, it is the dimension of restraint that is the best predictor of behavior in the present (and presumably, analogous) circumstances. By extension, it seems reasonable to conclude, at least tentatively, that restraint rather than simply a large degree of overweight is the critical variable governing the eating behavior of obese individuals. Our small sample of obese subjects was not homogeneous with respect to restraint, and behavior varied accordingly. Presumably, those studies detecting obese/normal differences have “capitalized” on corresponding differences in restraint.”

Herman and Mack’s experiment demonstrated that restrained eaters eat excessively more only when they violated their diet. More importantly, this paradigm set the stage for future eating research, even Dr. T’s  study  “Consumption After a Diet Violation Disinhibition or Compensation?” where she tested whether or not restrained eaters are able to control their eating behavior outside of an artificial setting. Dr. T found that even after a diet violation, restrained eaters do not overeat in everyday life (Read more).

Hungry? How to avoid the Snickers…

This post is from DiSH Lab intern Rachel:

Your finals week Snickers bar craving may not be purely from stress. While typical comfort foods are characterized as high in fat and calories and low in nutrition, a recent study from right here at UCLA shines a new light on “stress eating.” The study recruited 59 UCLA students, presenting them with an array of both healthy and unhealthy snacks. They were asked  how frequently they typically ate each of these foods, and which of the foods they would want to eat during finals. Results showed that participants were more likely to choose the foods they eat out of habit rather than the junk foods. This suggests that when we are stressed, we don’t necessarily tend to eat more junk food; rather, we fall back on our habits. This finding is very reminiscent of Allison’s post “Stress and poor health behaviors don’t always go hand in hand…” So the key to eating healthy while stressed is eating healthy habitually.

Can losing Z’s lead to more lbs?

This post is from DiSH Lab intern Nick:

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a common motto for the workaholics and late-sleepers of today’s society, but lack of sleep may be more detrimental than originally thought. In a sleep restriction study, researchers from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania investigated implications of lack of sleep. The study comprised of 225 healthy adults randomly assigned to either a sleep-restricted group or a control group. Each subject was restricted from exercising and was only allowed to perform stationary activities such as reading and watching TV. After 18 days, results showed an overall increase in a subject’s caloric intake due to a rise in high-fat meals consumed during extended sleeplessness. Males gained more weight than females, and African Americans were more prone to weight gain than Caucasians. This research gives more support for the role of sleep in weight regulation, similar to Angela’s previous post “Shedding pounds in your sleep?

Chatting Away That Extra Weight!

This post is from DiSH Lab intern Rachel:

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP)’s group telephone sessions were originally for individuals wanting to lose weight to prevent diabetes. But a recent study at SUNY Upstate Medical University found that these sessions are effective with other groups as well, particularly obese patients suffering from metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome symptoms include central obesity, high blood fats, high blood pressure and abnormal blood sugar levels, putting patients at a high risk for cardiovascular disease and/or premature death. In the study, 257 obese patients with metabolic syndrome were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Over a period of two years, one group received periodic individual calls, and the other group received conference calls with up to eight patients. After one year, the weight loss results from both groups were equal, but after two years, the participants who had received the conference calls had lost more weight. This is just another example of how social support can be a huge factor in fighting illness and disease.

Turning virtual weight loss into reality

This post is from DiSH Lab intern Nick:

We often associate technology, especially video games, with unhealthy behavior and laziness, essentially leading to obesity. However, researchers at Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education have found a way to use technology  to instill healthy eating behaviors and habits. In this recent study, the team of researchers used virtual reality simulators and avatars to replicate weight loss behaviors, such as portioning food and exercising daily. The study surveyed 128 overweight women based on usage of virtual reality simulations and weight loss activity in the past year. Eight overweight female participants then watched a DVD in which an avatar resembling them enacts weight loss habits. The trial lasted for four weeks. In the end, without any instructions to exercise or mimic the avatar, the women had lost an average of 3.5 pounds, which is about normal for typical weight loss plans. So, although society may pool video games and unhealthy and lazy behavior together, this new technology may be the answer to translate virtual weight loss to reality!

Research that Changed Research: Bottomless Soup Bowl

When do you stop eating? Most people would say that they’ll stop when they feel full. A classic experiment called the Bottomless Soup Bowl found that most people today are not very good at detecting when they feel full. Why is that? Well, people rely on different cues to help make certain judgments. With regards to food, people rely on visual cues of portion size to determine when they should stop eating. Ever heard of the phrase “Cleaning the plate?” As a result, people do not feel satiety until they see that their plate is cleared, even when food portion is increased. Wansink defined this behavior as mindless eating.

To test Wansink’s hypothesis that visual cues of portion size influence consumption, 54 participants (18 to 46 years of age) were recruited to either be in the re-refilling soup bowl condition or the control condition. The following passage is from the original article:

“Despite consuming 73% more, those participants eating from the self-refilling bowls did not believe themselves to have consumed any more soup than those in the control condition. Those eating from normal bowls believed they had eaten 32.3 calories fewer than they actually ate. In contrast, those eating from self-refilling bowls believed they had eaten 140.5 calories fewer than they actually ate.”

The size of food portion has been increasing for the past years (All-you-can-eat buffets, super-size McDonald combo meals, etc.), along with the country’s obesity rate. The Bottomless Soup Bowl experiment opened a link to how eating behaviors influence food intake and helped DiSH Lab further examine what small behavior changes can help people eat better and maintain a healthy weight.

New Series: Research that Changed Research!

While the DiSH Lab blog has been committed to bringing you the latest research in health psychology, we don’t want to ignore those awesome classic studies that set the stage for later findings. So we are introducing our new “Research that Changed Research” series where we will cover various studies that were the first of their kind and dust off and show off some awesome research from year and even decades ago:

Davis, C. M. (1928). Self selection of diet by newly weaned infants: an experimental study. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

In regards to your diet and health, who do you listen to? Whether you believe your mother, father, doctor, or the internet knows best, research shows that our bodies instinctively knows what we should consume to maintain a nutritional balance. An experimental study from 1928 by Clara M. Davis, M.D., showed positive health outcomes of allowing individual infants choose their own diets. In the study, three newly weaned infants were chosen to participant in the experiment for 6-12 months, in which they were given a wide range of food that satisfied the necessary nutrition for humans. The following passage is from the original article:

“The infants’ appetites were uniformly good. They often greeted the arrival of their trays by jumping up and down in their beds, showed impatience while their bibs were being put on, and, once placed at the table, having looked the tray over, devoted themselves steadily to eating for fifteen or twenty minutes. Then, their first hunger satisfied, they ate intermittently for another five or ten minutes, playing a little with the food, trying to use the spoon and offering bits to the nurse.”

While we want to let children choose what to eat themselves, the key is to provide a wide selection of healthy choices. Growing children do not need to follow a diet that is predominately milk-and-cereal. A variety of food containing supplements such as amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals found in both animal and vegetable origin is necessary. Although, food preference and satiety are determined by each individual infant’s body, food selection is determined in the hands of the parents. So, for your toddler’s next meal, try and bring out a selection of different fruits, poultry, and vegetable, and have your infant choose what they want and when they want to stop!

Davis’s research findings not only changed the world of child feeding, but also influenced new studies of eating behaviors. Therefore, we welcome Davis’s research as our first, but definitely not last, entry to our “Research that Changed Research” and that inspired DiSH lab’s interests in eating behaviors and our ultimate goal to promote health.

Strong bones start earlier than you would think!

Many people believe that kids should drink milk to help build strong bones, but in reality, mothers can help their children build strong bones even before they are born. A recent study shows that children born to mothers who get more vitamins from their diets during their first trimester of pregnancy continue to develop strong bones later in life. This study followed nearly 3,000 women during pregnancy and had them record their daily intake. Experimenters evaluated the meals to see whether diets were linked to the bone mass of children later on. The study found that the children whose mothers ate more protein, phosphorus and vitamin B12 while pregnant had the greatest bone mass, while the higher consumption of carbohydrates was linked to lower bone mass and bone mineral content. The results from this study further solidify the importance of prenatal care, as specific food intake can leave a lasting impact on a child’s development.

Stress and poor health behaviors don’t always go hand in hand…

We often assume that stress triggers poor health decisions and behavior… Snacking on more junk food than usual. Overeating. Not going to the gym as much. But according to Wendy Wood from USC, we are just as likely to fall back on healthy, good habits under stress as we are to “self-sabotage.” In other words, stress and fatigue can trigger good health decisions too!

In a study by Wood and her colleagues, they followed students for a semester and observed their habits and daily routines. The researchers found that during exam periods (times of stress and sleep-deprivation) students were likely to fall back on old habits. Students who ate unhealthy breakfasts (like doughnuts) throughout the semester ate more junk food during exams, whereas those who ate healthy breakfasts (like oatmeal) were more likely to continue eating oatmeal during testing periods. Even frequent gym-goers were more likely to exercise, even under stress and time limits!

So the next time you are under stress, pay closer attention to your behaviors…it may be saying something about your day-to-day habits rather than just a temporary case of indulgence!