The usual answer I get when asking clients if they are slow or fast eaters is “very fast.’’ That is unfortunate. The benefits of eating slowly are repeatedly demonstrated through research, the latest being an article in the Journal of Epidemiology.
Researchers from Japan looked at eating speed and metabolic syndrome. As a reminder, metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that include a large waist, high triglycerides, low HDL, high blood pressure and high fasting blood sugar. Study participants were 8,941 residents, aged 40-75, of Soka City, Japan. Subjects self-reported their rate of eating.
After a three-year follow-up, 647 participants were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. The incidence of metabolic syndrome was significantly associated with eating speed. The faster eaters had a larger number of occurrences of metabolic syndrome. Additionally a significant correlation was found between eating speed and larger waist circumference and low HDL cholesterol levels, without the syndrome. Eating slower appears to be an easy strategy to reduce risk of metabolic syndrome.
Fast eating has also been associated with eating more and feeling less satisfied with what has been eaten. This is explained by physiology. When eating, the hormone cholecystokinin is released by the intestines as well as leptin to signal your brain about feelings of fullness. It is a complex metabolic process that requires time. This has led to the familiar phrase of it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness.
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A few tips to slow down
▪ Put down utensils between bites.
▪ Be mindful while eating — no TV or other electronics
▪ Eat with a slow eater and keep pace
Research on rate of eating inspired me to write a verse that has a melody similar to the song, Feeling Groovy. I’ve been singing it to my husband at dinner.
Slow down, you eat too fast
You want to make the flavor last
Scarfing down all your food
You’re eating a lot, but feeling hungry
Ba da-da-da da da, feeling hungry
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.