Taking the time to enjoy your food may help your brain recognize when your stomach is full and help curb obesity, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ Open.
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Researchers in Japan collected 2008-2013 data on 59,700 individuals with Type 2 diabetes through health checkups and health insurance claims for the study. The participants were asked seven questions about their lifestyle, including eating speed, snacking habits and how often they skipped breakfast.
Analysts found that 21.5 percent of the slow-eating individuals were obese, compared to almost 30 percent of the normal-speed group and 45 percent of the fast-eating group.
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And while the slow eaters had an average BMI of just over 22, the normal eaters had an average BMI of 23.5, and the speedy eaters had an average BMI of around 25.
Waist circumference also increased with a faster eating pace.
“It’s all to do with the signal to the brain,” performance nutritionist Elly Rees told the Guardian. “Studies show that it takes up to 20 minutes for us to register that we’re full. So people who overeat tend to eat too quickly.”
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The study's statistical analysis also showed that changing eating habits, cutting down on snacks after dinner and not eating within two hours of bedtime were linked to a reduction in BMI. Skipping breakfast, however, was not.
“The speed at which a lot of people wolf down their food is undeniably a contributor to obesity,” Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum told the Guardian. “It takes fast eaters longer to feel full simply because they don’t allow time for the gut hormones to tell the brain to stop eating. Eating quickly also causes bigger blood sugar fluctuations which can lead to insulin resistance.”
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But the research has its share of limitations. For one, researchers only examined Type 2 diabetics and didn’t define the speeds at which they ate. Participants were just asked whether they eat “slow, fast or normal.”
Researchers didn’t look at energy/food intake or physical activity levels. When researchers stated that eating habits were linked to a reduction in BMI, it wasn’t clear what exactly caused the chances. The study also relied on self-reporting.
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Ian MacDonald, professor of metabolic physiology at the University of Nottingham, U.K., told the Guardian, “It is certainly not appropriate to extrapolate from these observations to conclude about eating speed and the development of obesity—however attractive the idea that fast eaters are likely to eat more, and that eating more leads to weight gain.”
To avoid guzzling down your food, nutritionists recommend drinking a glass of water before a meal, putting down utensils between bites, avoid eating in front of the TV and consider chewing hard foods (meats and vegetables) 20-30 times, the Guardian reported.
More about the study and its methodology at bmjopen.bmj.com.