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Appetite. 2017 May 5;116:277-283. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.04.038. [Epub ahead of print]

Lack of negative autocorrelations of daily food intake on successive days challenges the concept of the regulation of body weight in humans.

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1
Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. Electronic address: dal4@cornell.edu.
2
Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

Abstract

According to most theories, the amount of food consumed on one day should be negatively related to intake on subsequent days. Several studies have observed such a negative correlation between the amount consumed on one day and the amount consumed two to four days later. The present study attempted to replicate this observation by re-examining data from a previous study where all food ingested over a 30-day observation period was measured. Nine male and seven female participants received a vegan diet prepared, dispensed, and measured in a metabolic unit. Autocorrelations were performed on total food intake consume on one day and that consumed one to five days later. A significant positive correlation was detected between the weight of food eaten on one day and on the amount consumed on the following day (r = 0.29, 95% CI [0.37, 0.20]). No correlation was found between weights of food consumed on one day and up to twelve days later (r = 0.09, 95% CI [0.24, -0.06]), (r = 0.11, 95% CI [0.26, -0.0.26]) (r = 0.02, 95% CI [0.15, -0.7]) (r = -0.08, 95% CI [0.11, -0.09]). The same positive correlation with the previous day's intake was observed at the succeeding breakfast but not at either lunch or dinner. However, the participants underestimated their daily energy need resulting in a small, but statistically significant weight loss. Daily food intake increased slightly (13 g/day), but significantly, across the 30-day period. An analysis of the previous studies revealed that the negative correlations observed by others was caused by a statistical artifact resulting from normalizing data before testing for the correlations. These results, when combined with the published literature, indicate that there is little evidence that humans precisely compensate for the previous day's intake by altering the amount consumed on subsequent days. Moreover, the small but persistent increase in food intake suggests that physiological mechanisms that affect food intake operate more subtly and over much longer periods of time than the meal or even total daily intake.

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