Eating food slowly seems like good advice. But why could it better for you to slow down at the dinner table? Maybe because new research finds that fast eaters are at greater risk of weight gain and metabolic disease.
The advice seems credible: eat slowly so that you have a chance to feel full before you can overeat. Eating less can then mean less chance of gaining weight. So what does the science say? How eating speed could influence weight gain and future risk of metabolic disease has just been looked at by Japanese researchers.
Just over 1000 adult men and women took part in the study. Each person had their health and eating habits tracked for 5 years. Based on their own self-assessment, the participants were divided into three groups depending on if they considered themselves slow, normal or fast eaters.
So after 5 years had passed, how did the weight and health of the different groups of eaters fare? Just over 11 percent of the fast eaters had developed metabolic syndrome. This compared with 6.5 percent for the normal speed eaters, and just 2.3 percent for the slower eaters.
The faster eaters also presented with a greater risk of weight gain, higher waist circumference and a more adverse blood lipid profile.
The findings from this work support previous short-term laboratory eating studies showing that fast eaters feel less full and are more likely to overeat later. So it is good to see this translate into the ‘real world’ over a long time period as the current study found.
Why is it so?
Why eating slower is good for us is because it takes time for mechanical and hormonal signals to reach the brain from the stomach to tell us we’re full. Eating slowly allows this feedback system to work properly. Eating quickly also causes greater fluctuations in blood glucose, which can lead to insulin resistance.
So how fast is too fast? Previous research has found that a meal should take about 20 minutes to consume so this should be a time target to aim for.
What it all means
Eating slowly is easier said than done. But one way to achieve this is to put your cutlery down between each bite. Better yet, try eating food with chopsticks if you’re not so adept with them. Keep your mind on your teeth and jaw and get them working together to really chew each mouthful of food fully and mindfully.