Faculty of 1000

Post-publication peer review

Food for thought

Posted by Callum Anderson on 17 February, 2010

A recent evaluation on Faculty of 1000 Biology highlights a novel advance in the fight against adolescent obesity.  In what could be considered the first behavioural trial to treat obesity (i.e. not based on a drug treatment), a team led by Anna L Ford at The Bristol Care of Childhood Obesity Clinic found that by retraining the eating habits of obese patients, sustained weight loss can be achieved.

The trial centres around a new technology called the Mandometer, which has previously been marketed as a device to cure Anorexia-Bulimia.

Mildly humorous instructional video.

The device is essentially a set of weighing scales, linked to a computer, which monitors how much you are eating and how fast you are eating it. Participants record how full they feel on a 100 point scale at various times throughout the meal, and the device then tells them to eat more slowly or quickly depending on their answers.

In recent years, we have come to redefine Anorexia-Bulimia as a behavioural or psychological rather than a medical condition. This study puts forward the argument that it may well be time to look at obesity in the same manner.

As the authors say

An intervention aimed at slowing down speed of eating and reducing portion size through retraining eating behaviour is a useful adjunctive therapy to standard lifestyle modification in obese adolescents.

Now it isn’t particularly surprising that when told what to eat, and how quickly to eat it, the trial participants lost weight. Nor is the conclusion that behavioural based eating interventions are a good way to sustain weight loss a real revelation. However this trial does offer some hope for making sure that patients retain a healthy weight after observation has ended, mainly because the device can be used at home and without supervision. Perhaps technology based solutions may provide a fruitful area of study in the future?

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4 Responses to “Food for thought”

  1. Perhaps they could simply try eating less.
    TOG

  2. Eva said

    Great first blog post, Callum =)

    Would this still work well if they used it at home by themselves? It makes having a meal into an event, and I thought it’s more the kind of mindless snacking (“this hot dog is not a meal, it’s just a snack”) that was so risky.

    • Callum Anderson said

      Perhaps that problem would still occur in some cases, but IMO it’s really important to draw the line somewhere between gently encouraging a lifestyle change and forcing one through a complete calorie controlled diet (my bias lies with the former, even if the weight loss isn’t quite as effective). Plus the machine is linked to BMI, so it will probably know if you are snacking between meals.

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