The Flavor Point Diet
By David L. Katz, MD, MPH, with Catherine Katz, PhD
Rodale Books (2005)
Reviewed by Jeannie Moloo, PhD, RD, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson
Forget about counting carbohydrates, fat grams or calories, the way to lose weight is through limiting the variety of flavors in meals and snacks. Dr. David Katz, MD, MPH, Director of Yale University Prevention Research Center, claims "The Flavor Point Diet is the first to use sensory-specific satiety to enable long-term weight control without hunger." He points to research showing when we taste too many flavors at once, we overeat before feeling full. Dr. Katz tested his diet on 20 people for 12 weeks and reports an average weight-loss of more than 16 pounds.
The Flavor Point Diet works to subdue appetite on two levels. First, it uses flavor themes to organize eating. When a flavor is tasted repeatedly throughout the day, the brains appetite center is more quickly satisfied so the body senses satiety more quickly and we eat fewer calories. Second, the book shows readers a new way of eating by learning to choose and cook meals using minimally processed foods that do not contain an overabundance of flavors. The authors guide readers to the Flavor Point way of eating by using three phases.
The first phase covers four weeks and shows readers how to "drape a delicate flavor theme over their meals" each day. For example, Day 1 of the diet is Raisin/Currant Day, where the flavor of raisins and currants are emphasized at each meal through whole-grain cereal with raisins for breakfast and currant-lentil spinach salad for lunch. In the third week, there is Spinach Day with a spinach and feta omelet for breakfast and pasta fagioli with spinach marinara sauce for dinner. Phase 2 of the meal plan includes a greater variety of daily flavors, whereby only meals, not entire days, are flavor themed. Phase 3 expands on the first two phases by using flavor management at the level of individual foods. For the seasoned Flavor Point dieter, the book offers suggestions on how to navigate restaurants and approved brands of convenient foods sold at local markets. The authors also recommend 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days.
Nutritional Pros and Cons
As should be expected from a physician with Dr. Katz's credentials, the diet plan is nutritionally sound. The flavor themes throughout the book build on an abundance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and poultry and encourage limiting fat and opting for healthier snacks. A potential Nutritional Pros and Cons is if a reader were to take the concept too far and become too restrictive in food variety, contradicting the hallmarks of healthy eating as highlighted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The Flavor Point Diet concept is a fresh and remarkably simple twist on the low-fat diet. It brings to light sensory-specific satiety and how flavor variety stimulates the appetite center in the brain, while flavor repetition soothes it. The book is well written and easy to follow. Most people who subscribe to the Flavor Point diet will lose weight as they would with any low-fat, calorie-restricted diet that encourages regular physical activity. The challenge for most people will be the time required to plan flavor-specific meals and snacks.
If young children (who often have limited food taste and texture preferences) are in the picture, this diet plan may be more challenging than most to follow. The flavor-themed menus and recipes are certainly creative, but could get monotonous. On the other hand, with the emphasis on flavor, The Flavor Point Diet might put some enjoyment back into eating for those who are trying to lose weight and eat healthier.