The advice seems credible: eat slowly so that you have a chance to feel full before you overeat. This has led a number of researchers to investigate how eating speed might influence weight and future risk of metabolic disease.
Just over 1000 adult men and women took part in the study, which tracked their health and eating habits over five years. Based on their own self-assessment, the participants were divided into three groups based on whether they considered themselves slow, normal or fast eaters.
After five years had passed, the weight and health of the different groups of eaters was assessed. Just over 11% of the fast eaters had developed metabolic syndrome, compared with 6.5% of the normal speed eaters, and just 2.3% of the slower eaters.
Faster eating speed was also linked with a greater risk of weight gain, greater waist circumference and a more adverse blood lipid profile.
The findings from this work support previous short-term laboratory eating studies that suggest quick eaters feel less full and are more likely to overeat later. It takes time for mechanical and hormonal signals to reach the brain from the stomach to tell us we’re full so eating slowly allows this feedback system to work properly. Eating quickly also causes greater fluctuations in blood glucose, which can lead to insulin resistance.
So how fast is too fast? Previous research has found that a meal should take about 20 minutes to consume so this should be a time target to aim for.
Eating slowly is easier said than done but one way to achieve this is to put your cutlery down between each bite. Better yet, try eating food with chopsticks if you’re not so adept with them. Keep your mind on your teeth and jaw and get them working together to really chew each mouthful of food fully and mindfully.