The same calorie content, but different weight gain?

Can meals based on Norwegian raw materials prevent overweight? This was the question Norwegian researchers asked themselves, and they decided to use a meal consisting of salmon, barley and broccoli to answer it. They subsequently compared this salmon-based meal with two others: a hamburger meal and a beef meal.

This article was last updated more than two years ago.

The scientists have shown that the raw materials used to compose a meal affect how mice gain weight.

“Even though the calorie contents of different meals were the same, mice that ate the salmon, barley and broccoli meal gained less weight than mice that ate the hamburger meal and those that ate the meal based on beef,” relates senior research scientist Bente Kirkhus at the food research institute Nofima, and project manager of the “Healthy Meals” project.

The importance of meal composition
The scientists have examined how digestion is influenced when individual raw materials are served, rather than complete meals. It turns out, for example, that the fat in salmon is digested differently if the salmon is eaten alone, together with broccoli, together with barley, or as part of a complete meal.

This means that the composition of a meal has a profound effect on the digestion of fat. For example: Eating salmon together with barley delays the digestion of fat, and may thus affect the feeling of satiety.

“Better knowledge about the relationship between the feeling of satiety and the composition of a meal can be used to develop new products that increase the feeling of satiety and prevent overweight,” says Kirkhus.

The scientists have also studied the effect of the salmon-barley-broccoli meal on the intestinal flora. They used a model of the large intestine to show that bacteria believed to play an important role for good intestinal health and associated with weight loss were stimulated by barley and broccoli. To sum up: barley, broccoli or a meal composed of salmon, barley and broccoli may have a beneficial effect on human health.

Mice thrive on fish
Mice were served different foods for 16 weeks, after being divided up into five groups. Group 1 received the hamburger meal, Group 2 the beef meal, and Group 3 the salmon-barley-broccoli meal. The final two groups were fed the hamburger meal for the first eight weeks of the study, and then switched to either the beef meal (Group 4) or the salmon meal (Group 5).

The energy contents of the three meals were approximately the same, but the mice who received the hamburger meal not only put on more weight, they also developed a greater amount of fat tissue and showed poorer values for other parameters that are important for health. The salmon meal gave the best results, and it was also shown that the mice that were switched from the hamburger meal to the salmon meal after eight weeks rapidly changed their intestinal flora and improved their health status.

A knowledge platform
The scientists now want to continue working to understand the possible relationship between intestinal flora and the development of systemic inflammation that is associated with diabetes type 2 and other lifestyle diseases. The project participants have developed an expertise and analysis platform, which the food industry has shown an interest in. The platform may become significant in the development of new and healthier products.

“Healthy Meals” was a three-year project that ended on 31 December 2013. The project was financed by the Research Council of Norway, with participation from Nofima, NIFES and NMBU

 Food and health    Food safety and quality  

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