‘All-you-can-eat’ buffets may increase your risk of weight gain

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In a new study from the University of Kansas, researchers examined people’s choices when confronted with an all-you-can-eat buffet.

They found that the food people choose to heap on their plates might predict their chances of having higher weight gain or obesity.

The researchers focused on foods defined as “hyperpalatable”—dividing this category into carbohydrate and sodium (CSOD) foods or fat and sodium (FSOD) foods—and compared them with high-energy dense and ultra-processed foods.

In the study, younger adults without obesity ate a meal at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The research team measured their body composition before the meal and followed up a year later.

The study tracked associations between proportions of buffet items chosen by participants—high-energy-density foods, ultra-processed foods, and hyperpalatable foods—and participants’ weight change and percent body fat change one year later.

The team found people who consumed a greater proportion of hyperpalatable carbohydrate and sodium (CSOD) foods in their buffet meals had significantly greater weight change and percent body fat change at the assessment a year later.

A couple of classic examples of hyperpalatable CSOD foods would be pretzels or popcorn.

But the study also found no big body changes a year later for those in the buffet study who ate high proportions of fat and sodium hyperpalatable foods, high-energy dense and ultra-processed foods.

The researchers concluded eating more hyperpalatable carbohydrate and sodium foods at an all-you-can-eat buffet may indicate a tendency toward “hedonic eating,” which may boost a person’s risk for weight and body-fat gain in early adulthood.

The take-home point is really that people who tended to consume more carbohydrate and sodium foods—when they were freely available—were at greater risk for weight and body fat gain.

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The study is published in Appetite. One author of the study is Tera Fazzino.

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