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The Secret to a Better Milkshake for Feeling Fuller with Fewer Calories

Tim Boyer's picture
Satiety better understood with milkshake study

The secret to a better milkshake for feeling fuller may have more to do with something scientists call “phantom fullness” than it does with what sticks to the ribs the longest. Here’s what type of shake may be the better one for your weight loss success.


When it comes to managing our weight, we are advised that feeling fuller with added fiber increases our feelings of satiety and so should be an important component of our diet. However, oddly enough, satiety is not as simple as eating food that “sticks to your ribs.” In fact, it turns out that added fiber passes through our gut rather quickly and has more to do with making us “feel full” than it does making the stomach stay full.

According to a news release about research performed by scientists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, 15 healthy men were fed four different types of milkshakes to see what combination of fiber (thin or thick) and calories (low or high) stayed in the gut the longest and were rated as feeling more satiating.

The 15 study participants were fed at different times a dairy-based shake (500 mL; 50% carbohydrate, 20% protein, and 30% fat) with the following differences in 4 separate testing sessions:

Shake Session #1―fiber-thin and 100 calories

Shake Session #2―fiber-thick and 100 calories

Shake Session #3―fiber-thin and 500 calories

Shake Session #4―fiber-thick and 500 calories

After each shake was consumed, the participants’ guts were analyzed by MRI to determine how long the shake physically remained in the gut before continuing on through the digestive tract while stating periodically how full they each felt during the MRI.

The following results were observed:

• The fiber-thin, 100 kcal shake stayed in the gut the least amount of time―approximately 27 minutes.

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• The fiber-thick, 100 kcal shake came in second shortest at approximately 41 minutes.

• The fiber-thin, 500 kcal shake came in third shortest at approximately 70 minutes.

• The fiber-thick, 500 kcal shake stayed in the gut the longest at approximately 82 minutes.

However, the participants remarked on a preference for the fiber-thick, 100-kcal shake for feeling fuller than the fiber-thin, 500-kcal shake that stayed in the gut longer by nearly one-half an hour.

The researchers attribute this revelation to what they call “phantom fullness”― a feeling of fullness caused by eating high-fiber food despite having a relatively calorie-empty stomach.

They concluded that their data shows that (…increasing the viscosity is less effective than increasing the energy density in slowing gastric emptying. However, the viscosity is more important to increase the perceived fullness. These results underscore the lack of the satiating efficiency of empty calories in quickly ingested drinks such as sodas. The increase in perceived fullness that is due solely to the increased viscosity, which is a phenomenon that we refer to as phantom fullness, may be useful in lowering energy intake.”

The key message is that here is more evidence that adding fiber to your diet can do more for managing your weight by making you feel fuller and thereby consume fewer calories. In addition, the data adds to our understanding of defining what satiety is regarding feelings of fullness and what is actually going on in the gut after consuming fiber and calories.

So when it comes to choosing your fiber-containing shake, apparently you can count on feeling fuller with a high-fiber, low-calorie milkshake than going with a more fattening low-fiber, high-calorie combo―an important consideration and distinction when trying to decide whether you might need a higher calorie drink to get you through the afternoon until your next meal.

For more about fiber, here is how to Lose Weight by Adding More Fiber to Your Meals with These Great Tips.


Wageningen University news release “Phantom fullness: Feeling full on an empty stomach

Empty calories and phantom fullness: a randomized trial studying the relative effects of energy density and viscosity on gastric emptying determined by MRI and satiety” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition July 2016, 104 (1); Guido Camps et al.