Can a milkshake help you lose weight?
Does the Milkshake Diet help you lose weight? The answer depends on the ingredients you plop into your blender; at least that’s what a recent study suggests.
As part of the study, 15 men drank a milkshake that was either 100 calories or 500 calories and either thick and creamy or thin and runny. All the shakes were the same size and nutritionally identical, with 50 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat and 20 percent protein.
After they drank the shakes, the men were given MRIs and asked to rate how full they felt on a 100-point scale. Their appetite ratings were recorded every 10 minutes for an hour and a half.
The researchers discovered that regardless of how long it took for their stomachs to empty, the men who drank the thick 100-calorie shakes reported feeling fuller than those who drank the thin 500-calorie shakes. They called this “phantom fullness.”
This is where brain reactions and psychology may come into play.
“If a drink is thicker, a person may tend to drink it more slowly,” says Amy Strutzel, a diabetes dietitian educator at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “This gives a person’s stomach more time to signal to the brain that they are actually satisfied. Also, perception and bulk of foods may have a psychological effect on a person. A person may assume the drink may be more filling before even drinking it.”
The key to staving off hunger with a healthy drink – whether it’s a milkshake or smoothie – seems to be the thickening agent. Loading the blender with Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey or Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough probably won’t make for a successful weight-loss strategy. But stocking up on healthy ingredients may do the trick.
As part of their study, the researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands used a thickening agent called locust bean gum to make their shakes denser. Strutzel says other low-calorie thickening agents include tara gum, guar gum and xanthan gum.
Psyllium husk or psyllium husk powder is a soluble fiber that can be used as well she says, adding, “This also promotes regularity without increasing flatulence.”
Another option: chia seeds or chia seed gel. To make chia gel, mix two tablespoons of chia seeds and one cup of water in a jar. Cover the lid and shake intermittently for 15 minutes.
She also suggests leafy vegetables, such as spinach, and healthy fats, like avocado and peanut butter.
“But these are more calorie dense, so portions will be important here,” she notes of the healthy fats.
Frozen fruits or bananas could be added, but again watch the portions because carbohydrates and calories can add up quickly, she says.
Carbs from veggies, whole fruits, non-fat, plain Greek yogurt, unsweetened almond milk, skim or 1% milk and oats are some examples.
Protein powders also can work well, as can unsaturated fats in small amounts, such as avocado, natural nut butters, nuts and seeds.
“Portioning out ingredients will be important so that the calories stay moderate to low,” Strutzel cautions. “Even smoothies that sound healthy can add up in calories quickly if we’re not careful.”
Strutzel also believes it’s a possibility that different results would have emerged from the study if women had been included.
“In the study, they used only male subjects who were all within a healthy weight range. The way men and women respond to satiety with foods can be different,” she says. “Also, if someone is overweight, their satiety cues may not work as well. They may not get that same feeling of fullness as someone who may be more in touch with those hunger or satiety cues.”
About the Author
Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.