Eating foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fats – like salmon and walnuts – could help to control appetite and leave consumers less likely to feel hungry, according to research published in the US.
The study looked at millennial consumers who regularly consume foods with large quantities of good polyunsaturated fats. It found potentially favourable changes in specific hormones that help to control appetite – including a significant decrease in fasting ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger, and a significant increase in peptide YY, which increases satiety.
Researchers measured the level of hunger in participants by recording changes in hormone levels, and by asking them how hungry they felt.
Polyunsaturated fats were known to be good for consumer health because they can help reduce cholesterol and provide essential fats like omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that the body can’t produce itself. But this research suggests that, by eating foods high in polyunsaturated fats, consumers can address over-eating.
Lead researcher Jamie A Cooper from the University of Georgia said: “Appetite hormones play an important role in regulating how much we eat. These findings tell us that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats, like those found in walnuts, may favourably change appetite hormones so that we can feel fuller for longer.”
Which foods are high in polyunsaturated fats?
Researchers enrolled healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 35, who were placed on a seven-day diet high in polyunsaturated fats or a control diet consisting of a typical American eating pattern. After the seven-day diet, participants consumed test meals high in saturated fat again.
The two diets contained the same number of total calories and percentage of calories from fat, but differed in the types of fat included.
Through participant feedback, and by monitoring participants’ hormone levels, the scientists were able to see that the test diet, which contained high levels of polyunsaturated fats, was more likely to leave consumers feeling full. Along with monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats – or PUFAs – are good for the body.
The researchers conceded that larger and longer-term studies were needed, as well as studies conducted with diverse populations, in order to clarify population-wide effects. They also admitted that it is difficult to discern whether changes seen with the PUFA-rich diet can be attributed to one specific type of PUFA, food source, or a combination of overall dietary factors.
But it will be welcome news, in the context of the world’s continuing obesity crisis, that foods rich in polyunsaturated fats might help to control hunger.
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