Gadgets like a vibrating fork are supposed to help people lose weight. But does this truly work? Researchers discovered that people indeed do eat slower when eating with such a fork, but they do not get satiated faster nor do they eventually eat less.
Losing weight purely by willpower will always be difficult. It starts with good intentions, but many people go back to their bad habits after some time. There are therefore gadgets on the market like the vibrating fork: a fork that starts to vibrate when one eats too quickly. Previous research revealed that people who each slower get satiated faster and therefore eat less. ‘In this study, we saw that people would indeed eat slower, but it had no effect on the amount they eventually ate or on the point at which they felt satiated’, says Monica Mars of the Division of Human Nutrition.
The researchers randomly separated 114 test subjects into two groups. Both groups ate their meals using the Slow Control 10sFork. One group had their fork set to vibrating mode, while the other did not. The participants then were given an 800-gram dish with spaghetti Bolognese and could take as many servings as they wanted.
The vibrating fork is meant to make people eat slower and consequently eat less. Eating is often a subconscious, automated action and people are not aware of their behaviour, tells Mars. They can only change this behaviour when they are confronted with it. The working principle of the vibrating fork is simple: the fork registers when one takes a bite; if a following bite is taken within ten seconds, the fork starts vibrating and a red LED lights up.
People who received a signal from the vibrating fork did eat slower that those who did not: 4.6 versus 5.3 bites per minute. Participants with the vibrating fork took 9 minutes and 44 seconds on average to finish their meal, while the control group only needed 8 minutes and 12 seconds on average. But both groups eventually ate the same amount, approximately 430 grams, and felt equally satiated.
The researchers did not expect this result. Previous research showed that people who eat at a slower pace also get satiated faster and eventually eat less. Mars: ‘As the participants in this study could serve themselves, it is possible that they finished their plates out of habit, instead of stopping once they were satiated.’ It is difficult to say whether the fork really can help people lose weight.
The researchers are currently still carrying out a study in which motivated people who want to change their eating patterns are using the fork in their daily lives. The researchers also want to investigate whether people learn to eat slower in the long term when using the fork. The research is part of the NWO project ‘Take it Slow’ and is carried out in collaboration with the Behavioural Science Institute of Radboud University and the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, among others.