Researchers from the Kyushu University Graduate School of Medical Sciences say people who eat their meals slowly, avoid nighttime snacking, and don't go to sleep until at least two hours have passed since dinner are more likely to see their waistlines shrink. After eliminating any factors that might influence a person's risk for obesity, the authors found that people who ate at a normal speed were 29 percent less likely to be obese, while the slowest eaters saw a 42 percent risk reduction.
A research team in Japan set out to analyze the effects of eating speed on obesity - defined as BMI greater than 25 in Japan - by asking over 59,000 Japanese men and women with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes to rate their own eating speed as fast, normal or slow. During those appointments, people were asked about their eating and sleeping habits, including how fast they typically ate and whether they regularly skipped breakfast, snacked after dinner or ate before bed.
The data used in the research included information on the dates of consultations and treatments, while the check-ups included measurements of weight (BMI) and waist circumference and the results of tests for blood chemistry, urine and liver function.
At the start, more than half of the people said to eat at a "normal" speed while a third admitted to being "fast" eaters and the rest self-identified as "slow" eaters.
Interestingly, skipping breakfast does nothing to decrease weight.
And they conclude, "Changes in eating habits can affect obesity, BMI, and waist circumference. Interventions aimed at reducing eating speed may be effective in preventing obesity and lowering the associated health risks", the authors wrote.
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Other studies have indicated that those who eat quickly are more likely to be overweight, have acid reflux and have metabolic syndrome.
Want to lose weight and do not want to diet and exercise, try eating slow.
However, they cautioned that people who took part in the study were "relatively health-conscious individuals" who voluntarily participated in health check-ups, so the findings may have "limited applicability to less health-conscious people".
Some experts believe when people eat faster there's less time for the "I'm full" signal to reach the brain, increasing the risk of overeating.
The study is observational, meaning it only observes a link between eating habits and weight gain without directly proving one causes the other.
Physicians working in diabetes and weight management already recommend slower eating speed to limit portion size.
When people eat too fast, hormones in the gut that relay the "I'm full" signal to the brain aren't given enough time to work.