NCBI ROFL: Eating behavior and obesity at Chinese buffets.

By ncbi rofl | May 11, 2010 7:00 pm

buffetfood“The aim of this study was to investigate whether the eating behaviors of people at all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets differs depending upon their body mass. The resulting findings could confirm or disconfirm previous laboratory research that has been criticized for being artificial. METHODS AND PROCEDURES: Trained observers recorded the height, weight, sex, age, and behavior of 213 patrons at Chinese all-you-can-eat restaurants. Various seating, serving, and eating behaviors were then compared across BMI levels. RESULTS: Patrons with higher levels of BMI were more likely to be associated with using larger plates vs. smaller plates (OR 1.16, P < 0.01) and facing the buffet vs. side or back (OR 1.10, P < 0.001). Patrons with higher levels of BMI were less likely to be associated with using chopsticks vs. forks (OR 0.90,P < 0.05), browsing the buffet before eating vs. serving themselves immediately (OR 0.92, P < 0.001), and having a napkin on their lap vs. not having a napkin on their lap (OR 0.92, P < 0.01). Patrons with lower BMIs left more food on their plates (10.6% vs. 6.0%, P < 0.05) and chewed more per bite of food (14.8 vs. 11.9, P < 0.001). DISCUSSION: These observational findings of real-world behavior provide support for laboratory studies that have otherwise been dismissed as artificial.”


Photo: flickr/Bennett 4 Senate

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  • Grace

    recorded height, weight, sex, age, and behavior, but not race?

  • badnicolez

    Any person who’s been to a Chinese buffet could have predicted the results of this study.

    Many of us with low BMIs have to use these types of strategies to stay thin, i.e. browsing before eating and eating favorite foods first (not after we’re already full), using smaller plates (which automatically mean smaller portions), eating veggies before high-calorie items, using the opposite hand or chopsticks to eat, eating more slowly and stopping when full, not when the plate is clean. High BMI people seem to think we’re “naturally” thin and they’re just cursed with bad genes, etc., but that’s largely not true.

    It’s just a matter of time before a high BMI person posts here saying “I do all of this, and eat perfectly healthy and exercise all the time and I’m still fat.” What they don’t realize is we see them at the grocery store and restaurants engaging in behaviors that lead directly to obesity.

    Did they also track number of plates used (i.e. trips to the buffet)?

  • Jarod

    Hehe the name says ROFL

  • Suebee

    Hm. That is not fair to say that ALL those with low BMI’s work at it. I do believe the genes matter quite a bit.

    I have to say I’m one of the “lucky ones” who can eat a LOT.

    I don’t think I’m fat (5’4″ and right now 135 after having a baby 5 months ago) but I eat much much more than most people, and will definitely eat more at an all you can eat buffet. I pile a ton of food on my plate, go up for 3rd, 4th or 5th helpings, and eat until my stomach hurts (I had 6 slices of pizza for dinner just two days ago– Maybe that’s not fair since I’m breastfeeding. But I am 7 lbs shy of my pre-pregnancy weight 5 months after giving birth despite eating like that!).

    As a woman who is turning 39 in 2 weeks, I can say my weight hasn’t changed more than 10 lbs up or down since I was 16, when I was 125lbs. Granted, I am not as active or muscular as I was during my high school years, but I am pretty much the same weight!

    It is not fair to people who are heavy to be blamed for it. It is, in part, their genetics. Yes, maybe some of it is behavioral, but a lot of it is likely genetic.

    I can attest to that, as I am one of the lucky ones.

  • Suebee


  • Joanna Cake

    Damn, it just ate my comment! I’ve dealt with eating healthily. I think it’s as much to do with cyclical eating of meals containing ingredients from all the major food groups. Buffets tend to focus on deep fried rather than the steamed favourites too.

  • Da5id

    @Joanna: Research has shown that steamed /= favourite.

  • Noodle

    I’ve done it both ways. Usually, I scoop the noodles into a spoon and lift the spoon to my mouth. If there’s no spoon, I grab fewer noodles and put them in my mouth, then either (quietly) slurp or keep grabbing the same noodle at the bottom and lifting the rest into my mouth.


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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl


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