Study questions the concept that high fat meals induce satisfaction and digestive well-being

A study led by Vall d'Hebron Barcelona Campus Hospital, in collaboration with El Celler de Can Roca, and published in the scientific journal Neurogastroenterology and Motility shows that the fat present in meals can be reduced without affecting gastronomic satisfaction. Not only that, the work indicates that the same low-fat meal compared to the same meal with more fat improves mood and digestive wellbeing and provides the same sensation of satiety.


This work is the second scientific collaboration between Vall d'Hebron and El Celler de Can Roca, after the study that shows that a previous educational intervention improves the physiological and psychological sensations produced by a meal. 

Traditionally, it was considered that the fat is the main responsible for the satisfaction produced by the meals. That is, foods or high fat foods cause more well-being and pleasure than their low-fat equivalents. Now, a study directed by Dr. Fernando Azpiroz, head of the Digestive System Service of Vall d'Hebron University Hospital, questions this concept. 

For this work, El Celler de Can Roca was commissioned to prepare two recipes of hummus with the same ingredients (chickpeas, olive oil, water, tahini, lemon and cumin) in the same proportions, with one exception: the amount of fat. Both these recipes had the same taste, smell, texture and temperature. However, in the light hummus recipe, fat was not added, while duck foie gras was added to the hummus greasy recipe. In particular, a plate of fat hummus (150 grams) contained 11.1 grams of duck foie gras.

As pointed out by Dr. Azpiroz, who is also Head of Physiology and Digestive Physiopathology of the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) "so far, it was believed that fat was the key ingredient in the satisfaction produced by meals, but the data in patients who tolerated poorly fat food questioned this principle." Dr. Azpiroz had already directed a study that shows that slightly increase the fat in meals improves satisfaction and digestive well-being, but, if the presence of fat exceeds a threshold, these are reduced. For this reason, points out, "we propose a new study to investigate specifically the effect of fat on the sensations that produces the food." In this way, they asked a group of 12 healthy men to taste both recipes of hummus. On day 1 of the study, the participants took the light hummus, and, the next day, the fat hummus. The perception of previous sensations and those produced by food was evaluated at 5 and 10 minutes before ingestion, and every 10 minutes five times after it, through various scales to evaluate different variables.

Low-fat hummus: more enjoyable, same satiety

Dr. Azpiroz points out that, after ingestion, "light hummus clearly produced a greater sense of digestive well-being and better mood than fat hummus and the same feeling of satiety." This result is surprising, added the head of the Service of Digestive System of Vall d'Hebron, "because, until now, many studies showed that fat intake is responsible for inducing positive effects on digestive well-being and mood. But our work shows that from a certain amount of fat and on, a lower digestive well-being and worse mood". 

In this sense, Josep Roca, head of room of El Celler de Can Roca, explains that "pleasure and satiety do not preclude health. From the kitchen we will investigate to present both healthy and hedonistic proposals in a new gastronomy that integrates physical, psychological, sensory and emotional wellbeing. And that, at the same time, respect the ecological and sustainable sense of consciousness of the planet". 

This work opens the door to a paradigm shift on the importance of fat so that food is sufficiently enjoyable. "Reducing the amount of fat in meals can make them more enjoyable and satisfying without reducing the feeling of satiety and fullness, adds Dr. Azpiroz—. This effect may have clinical implications in patients with poor food tolerance or symptoms related to food".


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