Thursday, September 01, 2005

What Should Low-Carbers Make Of 'The Satiety Index'?

Phil Lempert using "The Satiety Index" to promote low-fat diet

NBC's "Today" show (which is still looking for "healthy eaters") Food Editor Phil Lempert was featured in a health segment on Thursday touting the virtues of what he believes is a fascinating new Australian study regarding food.

Lempert, who is known as The Supermarket Guru, cited a study conducted by researchers at the University of Syndey in Australia which found that some foods can make you feel more full than others when eaten with equal caloric values. If you haven't heard about it already, then let me introduce you to "The Satiety Index."

Developed by Dr. Susanna Holt, "The Satiety Index" helps measure how well various foods can satisfy someone's hunger based on a 240-calorie scale. Fixed amounts of 38 different foods were fed to the study participants who responded with how hungry they felt every fifiteen minutes and then were given the freedom to eat again from a buffet anytime over the next two hours.

The base value count used for "The Satiety Index" is 100 commonly found in a slice of white bread. Higher index amounts were given to those foods which provided more hunger relief and lower index amounts were assigned to those foods which were less filling in similar caloric amounts.

Interestingly, Lempert said the more fiber, protein and water a food has, the higher the index will be.

Since you eat lots of fiber, protein and water in the foods you can enjoy on the low-carb lifestyle, then it would stand to reason that there would be lots of low-carb foods at the top of "The Satiety Index," right?

Not hardly. Look at this abbreviated list of some of the "better" foods to eat according to "The Satiety Index":

Apples - 197%
Grapes - 162%
Bananas - 118%
Cornflakes - 118%
Crackers - 127%
Boiled Potatoes - 323%
Oatmeat - 209%
Oranges - 202%
Popcorn - 154%
French Fries - 116%

Of course, there were a few foods for people who are livin' la vida low-carb which showed up on the list of "good" foods:

Beef - 176%
Cheese - 146%
Whole Grain Bread - 154%

What is the impact of "The Satiety Index" and why am I even discussing it at a low-carb blog? I believe some ambitious advocates of the low-fat diet will use this as an effort to undermine the low-carb lifestyle (gee, what a surprise!) based on the conclusions drawn by the researchers.

Here's a quote I found from Dr. Holt regarding her study about the subject of fat:

"Fatty foods are not satisfying, even though people expected them to be," says Holt. "We think the reason is that fat is seen by the body as a fuel which should be used only in emergencies—it stores it in the cells instead of breaking it down for immediate use. Because it doesn't recognize the fat as energy for immediate use, the body does not tell the brain to cut hunger signals, so we go on wanting more. Carbohydrates are the opposite—they raise blood glucose so the body knows it has gotten enough fuel."

Dr. Holt concluded that foods which are high in fat (and generally low in carbohydrates) caused the study participants to feel HUNGRIER after a short amount of time because it is stored as usable energy rather than burned immediately for energy. In addition, Dr. Holt found that foods which are higher in carbohydrates are better because they can be burned for immediate energy and give the body a sense of fullness.

If anybody buying this? I have always contended and strongly believe that the fat that a person consumes in the foods he eats while livin' la vida low-carb is indeed what keeps them satisfied much longer than other diet plans. How else do you explain why I never get hungry when eating this way and was ALWAYS hungry on a low-fat diet? This is a passive-aggressive attack against fat and low-carb if you ask me. Telling people that eating more fat won't fill them up will likely discourage people from even trying the Atkins diet or any other low-carb program.

I will credit Lempert for nothing that any food with a high amount of fiber and/or protein in it, such as fish, eggs, and cheese, will make you feel immediately satisfied and keep people full longer because they take some time for the body to digest them. This is the good news regarding "The Satiety Index" for people who are livin' la vida low-carb.

My biggest problem with "The Satiety Index" is that it puts too much emphasis on portion-control and calories. On a low-carb lifestyle, it's not the amount of food you eat, but rather the kind of food you put in your mouth. Sugar, white flour and starchy foods can and will ruin your weight loss efforts if you are trying to drop pounds on a low-carb program.

Lempert recommends people cut back on how much they eat and follow the government standard of three servings of low-fat, high-fiber foods.

With all due respect to Lempert, I believe it is better if people eat foods which are lower in carbohydrates, higher in fiber and protein, and eat them in an amount that makes them feel satisfied. That way, I'll never need "The Satiety Index" to let me know when I'm full.

Even Dr. Holt somewhat hints at recommending people try to eat a little closer to low-carb than low-fat.

"Many 'health-conscious' dieters will eat a meal based on several pieces of fruit and some rice cakes and then wonder why they feel ravenous a few hours later. These kinds of extremely low-fat, high-carb meals do not keep hunger at bay because they are not based on slowly-digested carbs and probably don't contain enough protein. A dieter would be better off eating a wholesome salad sandwich on wholegrain bread with some lean protein like tuna or beef and an apple. This kind of meal can keep hunger at bay for a very long time."

WOW, there's hope for this study yet if the low-fat diet advocates don't distort the work conducted by Dr. Holt.

You can send Lempert your comments about his segment on "The Satiety Index" at

Dr. Holt is currently working as a research scientist with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia's largest scientific research agency, and is continuing to develop her research with further studies. We'll keep you updated on any new developments in "The Satiety Index" which could be couple with this research for some exciting news about low-carb down the road.

You can thank Dr. Susanna Holt for her great work by writing to her at Tell her how much you appreciate her work because it validates the low-carb lifestyle as a great way to stay satisfied while losing weight.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to see a study site based in Indiana...this states child obesity rates are outrageous...I have 2 children that would do this if it was made available...I know allot of people that would love to do this study...I actually had the gastric by-pass and had allot of satisfaction with it..but if this had been there 5 years ago when I had my surgery I would of done this instead.Please consider setting up a test site in the Indiana area.Thank-you Laveta Bates

10/07/2008 8:53 AM  

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