Although bigger people tend to have bigger appetites, the size of the stomach--and not just the size of the body--appears to affect the feeling of fullness, or satiation, during and after a meal, research from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota shows.
The investigators found that compared with normal-weight adults, those who were overweight or obese took longer to feel satiated at mealtime. Similarly, those whose empty stomachs were larger needed more calories to feel completely full.
It was not merely a matter of bigger people having bigger stomachs, said the researchers. Instead, the size of a person's empty stomach (called fasting gastric volume) was related to a feeling of fullness independent of body size.
Their study included 134 healthy volunteers who, after an overnight fast, drank a liquid meal until they reached maximum satiation. Their stomach volume before and after eating was measured through non-invasive imaging.
The researchers found that both body mass index (BMI) and fasting gastric volume were independently linked to the time it took participants to become full.
The study suggests that factors governing stomach volume might help predispose people to obesity and could serve as targets for weight-control tactics. These control mechanisms could range from eating patterns, such as whether a person eats small meals throughout the day or tends to binge, to hormones, to the nerves that control stomach contraction and relaxation.
Addressing these factors might then alter how long it takes a person to feel full. For example, changes in diet or patterns of food intake might help, as could medications that act on the nerves or hormones that control stomach volume, or other procedures or devices that change gastric volume. But first more research is needed to pinpoint the critical controls involved in determining stomach volume.
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