The Flavor Point Diet

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By David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP
Associate Professor of Public Health
Director, Prevention Research Center
Yale University School of Medicine

Associate Director, Nutrition Science
Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity
Yale University

Medical Contributor, ABC News



  • Book Premise:

The 'Flavor Point Diet' approach is based entirely on the neuroscience of appetite, and specifically, sensory specific satiety: the tendency to stay hungry longer and eat more when flavors are very diverse and keep changing, and to fill up on fewer calories when flavor variety is controlled. Using flavor themes, and by directing readers to food choices that have fewer flavors designed into them during processing, the Flavor Point Diet subdues appetite and allows for weight loss with no or minimal hunger, while maintaining a perfectly healthful, balanced diet suitable for the whole family at every step of the way.

  • Goals & Objectives:

To offer a 'diet' that would allow for prompt enough weight loss to satisfy the public, while avoiding the food exclusions that tend to be used to deliver rapid weight loss, then followed by rebound. To base a diet approach on 'how' to control appetite and eat less, rather than on reinventing 'what' constitutes healthful eating. To devise a plan in which the nutrition is completely sound and balanced and in accord with the highest scientific standards at every step. And to devise a 'diet' that is suitable for all members of a household, so that families are engaged in a sustainable approach to both weight control, and better overall health.

  • Novel Elements:

The diet is based on a very extensive scientific literature examining the neuroscience of appetite. While building in many other elements, the main focus is on the single most important thing about food: its flavor. Flavor variety stimulates appetite, increasing the calorie count required to achieve fullness (think large family meal and feeling stuffed, then still finding room for dessert). The food industry engineers superfluous flavors into innumerable products in the form of salt in sweet foods (such as breakfast cereals and desserts), sugar in salty foods (such as dressings and spreads), and artificial flavors. The Flavor Point Diet first uses flavor themes to help readers control the overall variety of flavors in their typical day, meal, and snack; and then guides readers to achieve the same thing at the level of individual foods by choosing those items that avoid or minimize unnecessary flavor additions.

The Flavor Point Diet approach was crafted only after an extensive review of the scientific literature on weight control, and appetite regulation. The meal plan was 'home made' rather than farmed out to professional chefs, and 'field tested' in the Katz household consisting of 2 adults and 5 children ranging in age from 6 to 17.

  • Relevant clinical experience:

I have been using the principle of sensory specific satiety in dietary counseling to excellent effect for nearly 15 years.

  • Pilot study outcomes:

A convenience sample of 20 overweight adults pilot-tested the Flavor Point Diet meal plan. Their test version was 12 weeks long; the final version in the book is the same in structure, but shortened to 6 weeks. Results for 16 subjects are tabulated below. Subjects lost between 10 and 31 lbs; demonstrated improvements in all health-related measures tracked; and generally took their families along with them. In some cases, family members lost more weight and experienced greater health benefits than the participant; one woman lost 15 lbs, while her husband lost 24 lbs and stopped taking antihypertensive medication. The subjects and their families (including kids) loved the food almost uniformly (testimonials in their own words are in the book), and consistently reported virtually no hunger on the plan. Most reported that the 'diet' (averaging 1500 kcal per day) provided more food than they could eat.

Flavor Point Pilot Study changes in outcome measures from baseline (N=16)*

Variable Mean ± SD p values 95% CI
Weight (lbs) -15.53 ± 6.01 <.0001 (-18.73, -12.33)
Body Mass Index (kg/m²) -2.51 ± 1.04 <.0001 (-3.06, -1.95)
Waist circumference (inches) -3.31 ± 1.92 <.0001 (-4.34, -2.29)
Body Fat (%) -4.43 ± 2.07 <.0001 (-5.53, -3.33)
Systolic Blood Pressure (mmHg) -11.56 ± 9.67 0.0002 (-16.72, -6.41)
Diastolic Blood Pressure (mmHg) -6.50 ± 4.94 <.0001 (-9.13, -3.87)
Heart Rate (per minute) -4.81 ± 5.89 0.0052 (-7.95, -1.67)
Cholesterol (mg/dl) -10.44 ± 23.61 0.0974 (-23.02, 2.15)
Fasting Plasma Glucose (mg/dl) -2.56 ± 6.95 0.1608 (-6.26, 1.14)
Flow Mediated Dilation (%) 3.61 ± 2.57 <.0001 (2.24, 4.98)

Note: p values are obtained from paired student t-test; CI indicates confidence interval.
*3 subjects had not yet completed the program when these statistics were run; 1 dropped out because of terminal illness in a parent.


Date: June 25, 2001
Contact: Pam Willenz
Public Affairs Office
(202) 336-5707

VARIETY IN DIET COULD BE A FACTOR IN OBESITY PROBLEM IN THE U.S., ACCORDING TO A REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH

When Eating One Food, Satiation Is Reached More Quickly And Therefore Overeating Less Likely

WASHINGTON - Eating a limited variety at mealtime may be a good way to control weight, according to a new study that reviews the research on diet, food intake and repercussions to body composition. This study appearing in the current issue of Psychological Bulletin, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), demonstrates that being exposed to a variety of foods may not be the spice of life when trying to lose weight.

The variety in our diets keeps us from tiring of the taste of the food, explain authors Hollie A. Raynor, M.S., R.D., and Leonard H. Epstein, Ph.D., of the University of Buffalo. This decreases the feeling of satiation - feeling full - so humans and animals are more likely to overeat when they are in a situation where they can taste different foods. When given one food, sensory-specific satiety is more likely. This is a phenomenon that occurs when a food's palatability is lessened because the food is eaten until the person is satiated, which lessons the pleasantness of the taste of that particular food and foods that are similar, said the authors.

The modern day diet with all of its variety nullifies this phenomenon from happening. One benefit, said the authors, of having access to many different foods is that it can give a species an evolutionary advantage - eating a variety of foods offers different nutrients and may prevent nutritional deficiencies.

But those more vulnerable to obesity are not at an evolutionary advantage when exposed to a variety of foods, say the authors. They may show less sensory-specific satiety and therefore have a tendency to overeat because they are not tiring of the taste of the food. On the other hand, they may have greater sensitivity to sensory-specific satiety and be more motivated to consume multiple foods when given a large variety of foods so they won't tire of the food - the danger of meals presented buffet-style, said the authors.

From our review of 58 studies, we found that dietary variety could increase food consumption in both humans and animals, said Raynor and Epstein. "Both people and animals will eat more food when a meal or diet contains 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 linked to being overweight."

In one study, participants were given four courses of food: sausages, bread and butter, chocolate dessert and bananas. Those who had different foods for each course consumed 44 percent more than those who ate the same food for each course. Another study had a similar finding. When different foods are available at the same time during a meal - tuna, roast beef, cheese and egg sandwiches - overeating is more likely than compared to a meal of just one of these foods.

But, if the foods are similar, meaning that their sensory characteristics are alike, then increased eating is less likely, said the authors. For example, studies that offered participants flavors of yogurt similar in color and texture (cherry, raspberry and strawberry) showed no increases in eating. This result was also found in a study that used three different flavored chocolate candies that were similar in appearance and texture.

The results of this review suggest that a reduction in dietary variety of highly palatable, energy-dense foods may be useful in treating and preventing obesity, said the authors. "Limiting these foods in a meal may help reduce the energy intake within a meal, thereby reducing overall intake. Plus, the research shows us that meals composed of foods with similar sensory qualities (taste, shape and color), also may curb overeating during a meal."

Article: "Dietary Variety, Energy Regulation, and Obesity," Hollie A. Raynor, Ph.D., and Leonard H. Epstein, Ph.D., University of Buffalo; Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 127, No. 3

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at http://www.apa.org/journals/features/bul1273325.pdf

Leonard H. Epstein Ph.D., can be reached by telephone at (716) 829-3400