As some students struggle to lose those extra holiday pounds, the publication of epidemiology and public health professor David Katz’s newly released book, “The Flavor Point Diet,” could not come at a better time.
Katz’s book is based on a phenomenon known as “sensory specific satiety,” the tendency to stay hungry longer when many different flavors are consumed. This concept is well-known amongst dieticians and appetite researchers, Katz said, but remains relatively unknown among the general public.
“Think of a holiday meal,” Katz said. “We eat until we’re stuffed, and then ask what’s for dessert.”
This common experience can be explained, Katz said, by sensory specific satiety. Switching to a different flavor category re-stimulates the brain, contributing to prolonged feelings of hunger, Katz said.
Katz said that many commercial foods have a variety of flavors manufactured into them, often without the consumer’s knowledge or detection. For example, he said, sweet foods often have a high salt content and salty foods might be loaded with sugar even though these additions might not affect the foods’ taste.
Different ethnic cuisines are good examples of flavor-themed foods, Katz added. Italian food is based around the flavors of tomatoes, olive oil and garlic, and French food often includes white wine, butter and shallots.
The “Flavor Point Diet” plan is based upon distributing flavors throughout the day and eating meals with general flavor themes. Katz said the diet, a six week long program designed to teach individuals how to properly distribute flavors, has days with different flavor themes, such as a tomato day, a cucumber day, or a chocolate day.
“I think flavor point is uniquely empowering because the single most important thing about food is flavor,” Katz said. “This is a diet that is all about flavor. The food is delicious, and it keeps the standards of cuisine from around the world.”
But Katz added that no diet advice will work for everyone. No diet book will universally solve everyone’s problems, Katz said, because some people do not want to put in the effort.
“Some people are looking for magic,” Katz said. “If you’re looking for magic, read ‘Harry Potter.’ I have no interest in that. I am looking for something much more powerful than magic, and that’s neuroscience, which is so much more powerful because it’s real.”
Although Katz’s book is focused on food, history of science and medicine professor Susan Lederer, who teaches the popular course “A History of American Bodies: Fat and Thin,” said that all diets should take into account the importance of exercise.
“It’s not just people eating McDonald’s, it’s people not exercising,” Lederer said. “We need to make access to gyms much more accessible, rather than cutting P.E. programs in schools,” she said.
Katz said his motivation for writing the book was his alarm at the increase in both adult and child obesity, especially because obesity is one of the leading causes of other epidemic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Secondarily, Katz recognized the American preoccupation with appearance, and said he gets nervous watching the American public turn from one fad diet to another, and wanted to find an empowering way to help individuals lose unwanted weight.
Before publishing “The Flavor Point Diet,” Katz said he conducted a pilot study with 20 overweight adults, resulting in an average weight loss of 16 pounds over a 12-week period. Katz added that family members of the study participants often lost weight as well, due in part to what Katz describes as the family-friendly nature of the diet.
Katz said he worked closely with his wife, Catherine Katz, while writing “The Flavor Point Diet.” Catherine Katz was not only able to contribute her knowledge of neuroscience to the diet — she has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Princeton — but Katz said that as a mother of their five children she insured that the food plan and recipes will work for the average, busy person.
Author of “The Way to Eat” and a regular columnist for the Oprah Magazine “O,” Katz said that the nutrition of his new diet plan is “absolutely superb” — it is high in fiber, calcium, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids, and low in saturated fat and sodium. The “Flavor Point Diet” meets or exceeds every nutritional standard put out by different groups, Katz said.
Katz said that Yale students on a university meal plan may not be able to follow the initial, proscribed six weeks of the diet, but he believes that students can apply the foundational ideas of the “Flavor Point” plan when deciding what to eat in the dining halls.
“Yale students have a reputation for being pretty bright, so I think they could take the basic principles from the book and, even if they don’t follow the book exactly, could probably loosely follow the plan in the dining hall,” Katz said.
As for the dining halls offering menus that follow the “Flavor Point Diet,” Karen Dougherty, the Data Base Manager of Dining Services, said that dining hall fare has never been based around any given diet.
“We have adjusted menus because people’s preferences have changed, but it’s not so much a specific diet as it is a change in what the customers want,” Dougherty said. “For example, we started offering reduced fat rather than whole milk, and trans-fat free margarine rather than butter in response to customers’ concerns and requests.”