Curbing your food intake might lead over time to a shrunken appetite. But whether dieting actually shrinks your stomach, as many people believe, is not so clear-cut, partly because the stomach’s actual size is difficult to measure with precision before and after a diet.
Still, studies have shown that significantly reducing caloric intake does produce measurable reductions in a person’s stomach capacity.
In one study, for example, scientists recruited a small group of obese men and women and split them into two groups: one that ate freely, and another that was put on a highly restricted diet that included small meals totaling less than 1,000 calories a day. The scientists used latex balloons to measure stomach capacity at the start of the study, and then four weeks later.
Among the dieters, gastric capacity was reduced 27 percent to 36 percent, on average, depending on how it was measured. There was no significant change in the control group.
This effect goes both ways: repeated intake of large meals, and bingeing in particular, increases stomach capacity. In some studies, including one in 2001, scientists found that normal-weight binge eaters tended to develop greater stomach capacities than obese subjects of comparable age and sex. And when groups of obese subjects are split into binge eaters and others, the binge groups show larger stomach capacities as well.
THE BOTTOM LINE Reducing food intake does seem to reduce stomach capacity.