MONDAY, May 21, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A bit of chicken soup as an appetizer can help cut the amount of food you eat by 20 percent.
That's the conclusion of one of several studies presented Monday at Digestive Disease Week 2007, in Washington, D.C.
Some other findings: Electrical stimulation of the sacral nerve along the spine can help treat chronic constipation; a lifelong vegetarian diet can reduce the risk of colon cancer; and special cells in the intestine might be targets for treating digestive diseases.
Dr. D. D. Chen, of Duke University, and her colleagues found that eating about 160 calories of a fatty soup, such as chicken soup, before dinner reduced the total amount of food consumed by 20 percent.
"Fatty soup as an appetizer reduces food intake in both lean and obese subjects," Chen said. "This may have a therapeutic potential for obesity."
In the study, 12 normal-weight people and 12 obese people were given soup before sitting down to an all-you-can-eat pizza meal. Both normal-weight and obese people ate less after having the fatty soup, Chen said. However, the same wasn't true for a protein-based soup, which in the study was made from eggs and contained no fat. These people chowed down as usual, the researchers found.
In another study, Dr. Y. Shastri, of the Department of Medicine at Goethe University Hospital, Frankfurt/Main, Germany, and colleagues found that people who ate a vegetarian diet over their lifetime had a significantly lower risk of developing colon cancer.
In the study, Shastri's team collected data on 9,700 people, of whom more than 2,000 were lifelong vegetarians. During five years of follow-up, the researchers found significantly fewer cases of colon cancer among the vegetarians than among non-vegetarians.
"A vegetarian diet can reduce the risk of colon cancer only if it is followed from birth," Shastri said. "This study proves that a lifelong vegetarian diet prevents colorectal cancer."
Two other studies presented Monday involved electrically stimulating the sacral nerve to relieve constipation and the possibility that mucosal enterochromaffin cells in the intestine could be targets for treating digestive diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.
In the first study, Dr. T. C. Dudding, of the Department of Physiology at St. Mark's Hospital in London, England, and colleagues used implanted electrodes to stimulate the sacral nerve in patients who suffered from chronic constipation and had failed to find relief with other treatment.
"Sacral nerve stimulation improves bowel frequency and other symptoms and improves the quality of life for patients with idiopathic constipation," Dudding said.
For 43 patients in the trial who received the stimulation, the average number of times they went to the bathroom increased from 3.4 times a week to 6.1 times a week. In addition, time spent on the toilet decreased from 17.6 minutes to 9.3 minutes, and straining decreased from 4.4 times a week to 2.9 times. In addition, abdominal pain decreased from 4.4 days a week to 2 days, according to the researchers.
The second study, by Dr. P. Voland of the Medical Department of the Technical University of Munich, Germany, and colleagues, uncovered one role played by mucosal enterochromaffin cells in the intestine. It appears these cells react to some spices and herbs, such as thyme, cloves, lily-of-the-valley and brown algae. These substances stimulate the cells to release serotonin, Voland's group found.
Serotonin controls the functioning of the intestines and conditions such as vomiting, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. "These cells are a potential target for the treating gastrointestinal diseases and other disorders," Voland said.
For more information on digestive diseases, visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.