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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 00:08 GMT 01:08 UK
Too much variety 'makes you fat'
Child eating
A variety in snacks and buffet food could cause obesity
A variety of foods may not be the spice of life when it comes to diet.

American scientists have found that eating too varied a diet could actually make you fat.

They suggest that eating the same foods meal after meal may dull the palate and encourage people to eat less.

British dieticians say this means cutting down on unhealthy foods such as snacks, while continuing to eat fresh fruit and vegetables.

People will eat more food when a meal or diet contains a greater variety of food

Scientists at Buffalo University
The scientists from the University of Buffalo found that although the varied modern diet is rich with nutrients and can prevent nutritional deficiencies, that it also encourages overeating.

Authors Hollie Raynor and Dr Leonard Epstein said the variety decreased the feeling of satiation, being satisfied, making people more vulnerable to obesity.

Variety of food makes us eat more leading to obesity

They said: "Both people and animals will eat more food when a meal or diet contains a greater variety of food, which can eventually cause weight gain.

"So it isn't surprising that a typical American diet that consists of a large variety in foods like sweets and snacks is being linked to being overweight."

They said that buffet-type meals were of particular concerns because they offered such a wide variety of food choices.

They gave people a four course meal and found that those who ate different foods for each course ate 44% more than those who ate the same for each course.

But if people were offered different foods of similar tastes such as different flavoured yoghurts or chocolate they would eat no more than usual.

Healthy diet

The scientists said that cutting out a varied diet of highly palatable energy-dense foods, like snacks, could be useful in preventing obesity.

"Limiting these foods in a meal may help reduce the energy intake within a meal, thereby reducing overall intake.

We may feel full after a main course, but out comes dessert and somehow we find room

Lisa Perkins, BDA
"Plus, the research shows us that meals composed of foods with similar sensory qualities (taste, shape and colour), also may curb overeating during a meal."

Lisa Perkins, state registered dietician for the British Dietetic Association (BDA), said that people should ensure they still eat a healthy well balanced diet, but cut out too much buffet style food.

"Most people have probably experienced how dietary variety increases our own food intake.

Fat person
People should cut down on fatty foods and eat healthily

"We may feel full after a main course, but out comes dessert and somehow we find room.

"But eating several courses or buffet style meals should be kept to special occasions to avoid overeating.

"Especially as buffet style meals tend to be high in fat (think quiche, sausage rolls, crisps and dips)."

The research is published by the American Psychological Associations' Psychological bulletin.

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