Eat more slowly to lose weight

handheld food
CC BY 2.0 [cipher]

Japanese researchers find that the faster a person eats, the more likely they are to be obese.

The speed at which you wolf down your dinner might have an effect on the diameter of your waistline. A new study from Japan, published in BMJ Open, has found a link between fast eating and increased body mass index (BMI).

Data was collected from health checkups of nearly 60,000 participants across six years. The participants, all of whom had type 2 diabetes and were undergoing medical checkups regardless of obesity status, were asked questions about their lifestyle, including whether they eat food at a slow, normal, or fast pace; snack after dinner three times a week or more; skip breakfast three times a week or more; go to sleep within two hours of eating dinner; and whether they sleep adequately.

Of those who said they eat fast, 45 percent were obese, compared to 30 percent of the normal-speed group and 21.5 percent of the slow eaters. From the Guardian:

"While the slow eaters had an average BMI of just over 22, the normal eaters had a BMI of 23.5 on average, and the fast eaters had an average BMI of around 25, while waist circumference was also found to increase with faster eating pace."

Additionally, the researchers tracked what happened when participants changed their habits and began eating more slowly, avoiding nighttime snacking, and not eating right before bed -- it led to reductions in BMI and obesity.

Why does eating speed affect weight?

It's not entirely clear, but the researchers have a few ideas. Eating quickly "causes bigger blood sugar fluctuations which can lead to insulin resistance," or in medical-speak,

"Eating quickly is associated with impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, and is a known risk factor for diabetes through increases in body weight."

Eating quickly also makes it harder for the brain to register when the stomach is full, giving the eater more time to take in additional calories.

I wonder, too, if people who eat quickly are eating on the go, sitting in cars that ferry them from place to place, relying on unhealthy convenience foods. While this is not mentioned in the study's discussion, it is a reality for many American families, with one in five meals being eaten in a car and one in four Americans eating at least one fast-food meal every day (statistics from 2014 via the Atlantic).

Regardless, it's time for Americans to examine their eating habits from every angle if there's any chance of recovering from the obesity crisis we currently face.

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