Eating Slower Can Lower Obesity Risk

As a child, your mom may have told you to ‘slow down’ when you eat. According to a recent study, mom may have been right. Leslie Heinberg, Ph.D., MA, explains how eating too fast can make us more likely to gain weight.

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CLEVELAND – Growing up, many of us might remember our mother telling us to ‘slow down’ when we eat.

According to a recent study, mom may have been right.

The study examined data from 59, 717 people with type-two diabetes.

Researchers asked people to describe themselves as fast eaters, medium eaters or slow eaters.

“People who were slowest eaters had the lowest risk of obesity; people who self-described as medium-eaters had a bit higher risk, but the highest risk was in the fast-eating group,” said Cleveland Clinic’s Leslie Heinberg, Ph.D., MA, who did not take part in the study. 

Dr. Heinberg said the results are consistent with what experts have seen in the past – people who eat quickly are more likely to weigh more.

She said when we eat, the signals of hunger have to move from our stomach and gut to our brain – and those pathways aren’t necessarily quick.

So, if a person is a fast eater, it’s easier to eat past the point of satiety to feeling very full.

After a fast-eater is done with a meal, the brain tells them they are uncomfortably full –and by then it’s too late, because they’ve already over-eaten.

Dr. Heinberg said when we eat at a slower pace, it allows this process to happen while we’re still eating, therefore allowing us to feel full before eating too much.

“People should take more than 20 minutes to eat a meal – ideally about 30 minutes –so that you can have an opportunity for your brain to catch up with your stomach,” she said.

When working towards weight loss and weight management, Dr. Heinberg said it’s necessary to learn new skills and new ways to eat.

She said slowing down by using a timer, counting bites, and putting hands and forks down in between each bite are all simple strategies that can help people change their eating habits.

“Small little behavior changes – whether it’s just getting a little more sleep, slowing down, not snacking as much, not eating in front of the television – all these little things are small steps that people can take to chip away at that problem,” she said.

Complete results of the study can be found in the British Medical Journal.

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