Eating slowly may actually help you lose weight

Eating slowly

A previous study, by experts at North Carolina State University in the USA, found "mindful eating" - savouring every mouthful, concentrating on flavour and "eating with purpose" - helped people lose six times as much weight as other slimmers.

The results reveal that 21.5% of the slow-eating group was obese, compared to nearly 30% of the normal-speed group and 45% of the fast-eating group.

The latest study, published in the journal BMJ Open by researchers in Japan, looked at data collected though health checkups and claims from more than 59,700 individuals as part of health insurance plans, with data spanning from 2008 to mid-2013.

These adjustments are linked with lower obesity and weight (BMI), and smaller waist circumference.

The Japanese researchers found that at the start of the study, 22,070 people routinely wolfed down their food, 33,455 ate at a normal speed, and 4,192 classed themselves as slow eaters.

The study found that people who followed these two behaviours were less likely to gain weight and had a smaller waist circumference. Other factors that could help people lose weight, according to the data, included to stop snacking after dinner, and not to eat within two hours of going to bed. Similarly, eating slower was associated with reduced body mass index and waist circumference in a fixed-effects model. "Interventions aimed at reducing eating speed may be effective in preventing obesity and lowering the associated health risks", the authors wrote. During the six-year study, the team noticed that changes in eating speed either resulted in increases or decreases in obesity and BMI. The figure was even higher for slow eaters, sitting at 42 per cent.

That's the outcome of a study in the journal BMJ Open, which scrutinised the health insurance data of almost 60,000 Japanese people who were quizzed about their health and lifestyle habits over a six-year period.

People looking to lose weight might try all kinds of ways to eat fewer calories. By contrast, around 30% of the people who ate at a normal speed and 45% of fast-eaters had the condition.

One of the main limitations of the study is that eating speed and other behaviors were reported by the participants and are therefore prone to subjectivity. In the case of the fast eater, the signal may only arrive in the brain after the person has already consumed too much food.

Observational studies can demonstrate links between factors such as eating speed and obesity, but they cannot prove that one factor (such as eating quickly) directly causes another (such as obesity). Researchers suggested it might prevent weight loss because it takes longer for fast eaters to feel full. Katarina Kos, Obesity Specialist at Exeter Medical University, said that it would be interesting to conduct the study on a larger population, not necessarily on people suffering from diabetes, to check whether the weight loss found in the Japanese study corresponded to treatment for this disease.

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