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Which factors decide how much we eat?

Headed by Aarhus University, OmniSaM is an ongoing interdisciplinary project dealing with satiety and developing a way to accurately measure how different foods make us feel full. Obesity and its accompanying complications is an increasing problem worldwide. Some of the known reasons for overweight and obesity are e.g. our diets and levels of physical activity. But which factors decide how much we eat, and can foods that fill faster and for longer make it easier not to overeat?

Breakfast table
A new project led by Aarhus University examines whether it is possible to produce foods that maximize satiety Photo: Colourbox

What is it that makes us feel full when we eat? The answer to this question is not as simple as one might think. Thus, the current ambition of the food industry is to examine whether it is possible to produce foods that maximize satiety. However, it may not be possible to produce foods that fill longer, if you do not have a deeper understanding of what the elements that make up satiety are and  accurate means for its measurement based on this new knowledge . The metrics known today only explain about 25 percent of the variance in actual consumption.


Based on the above, Arla Food for Health financed the OmniSaM research project, the cooperation partners of which include Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Department of Endocrinology at Hvidovre Hospital and Aarhus University Hospital, respectively,Arla as well as Department of Food Science at Aarhus University. The OmniSaM project approaches the satiety aspect from many different angles. Quite uniquely, the project includes the primary areas involved in the satiety cascade – and thus allowing us to predict actual future consumption. The project comprises test subjects whom are feed controlled diets who will provide blood samples and undergo brain scans fill out questionnaires and researchers will study their eating behavior.


Barbara Vad Andersen, PhD and Post doctoral Researcher in Sensory and Consumer Science at Department of Food Science, Aarhus University,  OmniSaM, explains:

- From an industrial perspective, the main objective of OmniSaM is to develop a method to measure a given food’s satiating capacity, e.g. a method that – more accurately than existing metrics – can predict future energy consumption. From a methodological perspective, we take a step back and ask: what factors decide how much we eat? We look closely at the elements in  the entire satiety cascade – more specifically, the aspects involved in creating and maintaining a feeling of satiety. It involves physiology and metabolism, where we measure appetite hormones and blood metabolites, It involves a neurological aspect, where we study brain reward centers, we ask people how hungry and full they feel – and we measure their eating behavior.

What happens in the brain and in the blood – and how does this affect your behavior?
This is the first time researchers combine all three approaches; partly because it is difficult – in terms of logistics – to work with three disciplines at the same time, and partly because the experimental setup is time-consuming and requires the coordination of brain scans at the same time as taking blood samples and asking test subjects about their feelings of hunger and fullness.

Barbara Vad Andersen says:
- Via this project, we hope to achieve new scientific knowledge on the translatability of the various areas: for instance, can we translate the blood measurements into what happens in the brain – and how is this expressed in what we feel and do?

The actual experiment is accomplished via a meal experiment. A homogenous group consisting of 25 men between the ages of 25 and 40 will be examined 4 times – each session lasting 5 hours. They are fasting, when they arrive, and each time they are given one of four different shakes composed to provide various degrees of satiety; this means that the shake will sometimes fill faster and for longer than others. Prior to drinking the shakes, the subjects provide blood samples and researchers ask them about their appetite sensations. Once the subjects have had the shake, they are closely monitored for a period of three hours, during which time blood is sampled, scannings and questionnaires are applied. Finally, they are served an ad libitum meal allowing them to eat as much as they like, while the researchers register their individual intake. The hypothesis is that a filling shake will result in reduced food intake later, whereas a less filling shake will entail increased food intake. 

-   In the period from  intake of the shake and until the following meal, we will examine the translatability between the brain, the blood and the behaviour, explains Barbara Vad Andersen.

The final experiments are currently accomplished, all samples and questionnaires will now be analyzed. Consequently, they will be combined and hopefully result in a method to accurately predict the satiety capacity of a given food product. The entire project is concluded at the end of the year. 

Derek V. Byrne, OmniSaM Project Leader, sums up:  - This project contributes a unique combination of the disciplines perception, psychology and physiology that is very essential when predicting intake. The knowledge generated in this project by combining these disciplines will be of major importance to the food industry when designing foods and drinks, as well as to the clinical treatment of patients with lifestyle diseases.


Read more about the OmniSaM project at the project website: http://food.au.dk/omnisam/

For further info, please contact Barbara Vad Andersen:

Mail: barbarav.andersen@food.au.dk

Tlf.: +4530707860

About the Omnisam project:

The project is funded by Arla Food for Health to the amount of 5.29 million DKK and will be concluded at the end of 2019.

· Project Leader: Professor Derek V. Byrne, Department of Food Science, Aarhus University

· WP Leader ”Brain”:  Professor Hartwig Siebner, Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, University of Copenhagen (DRCMR)
Daily project coordinator: Oliver Hulme (DRCMR)

·  WP Leader “Blood”:  Professor Sten Madsbad,  Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen
In cooperation with: Associate Professor Kjeld Hermansen, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University

·   WP Leader ”Behaviour” Postdoctoral Researcher Barbara Vad Andersen, Department of Food Science, Aarhus University


Arla Food for Health: 

Arla Food for Health was established in 2015 as a consortium between Arla Foods amba, Arla Foods Ingredients Group P/S, Aarhus University and University of Copenhagen. More about Arla Food for Health.