Food and Behaviour Research

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So Many Brands and Varieties to Choose from: Does This Compromise the Control of Food Intake in Humans?

Hardman CA, Ferriday D, Kyle L, Rogers PJ, Brunstrom JM (2015) PLoS One. 10(4) doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125869 

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The recent rise in obesity is widely attributed to changes in the dietary environment (e.g., increased availability of energy-dense foods and larger portion sizes).
However, a critical feature of our "obesogenic environment" may have been overlooked - the dramatic increase in "dietary variability" (the tendency for specific mass-produced foods to be available in numerous varieties that differ in energy content).

In this study we tested the hypothesis that dietary variability compromises the control of food intake in humans. Specifically, we examined the effects of dietary variability in pepperoni pizza on two key outcome variables; i) compensation for calories in pepperoni pizza and ii) expectations about the satiating properties of pepperoni pizza (expected satiation).
We reasoned that dietary variability might generate uncertainty about the postingestive effects of a food.
An internet-based questionnaire was completed by 199 adults. This revealed substantial variation in exposure to different varieties of pepperoni pizza.
In a follow-up study (n= 66; 65% female), high pizza variability was associated with i) poorer compensation for calories in pepperoni pizza and ii) lower expected satiation for pepperoni pizza.
Furthermore, the effect of uncertainty on caloric compensation was moderated by individual differences in decision making (loss aversion).

For the first time, these findings highlight a process by which dietary variability may compromise food-intake controlin humans. This is important because it exposes a new feature of Western diets (processed foods in particular) that might contribute to overeating and obesity.