Slow Down to Eat Less

Slow down when you eat. That’s the takeaway from a new Japanese study on the relationship between lifestyle habits and obesity.

Data collected over a five-year period from 59,700 individuals showed a clear trend: 21.5% of self-reported slow eaters were obese; 30% of normal speed eaters were obese; and 45% of fast eaters were obese.*

Other studies have shown similar results. One from China found that people reduce their calorie intake by more than 10% if they chew their bites 40 times rather than 15 times.

“It’s all to do with the signal to the brain,” performance nutritionist Elly Rees told the Guardian. “Studies show that it takes up to 20 minutes for us to register that we’re full.”

And so people who eat too quickly have a tendency to eat too much.

In contrast, study authors write, eating slowly may help to increase feelings of satiety before an excessive amount of food is ingested.

Additional questions examined in the new study involved eating and snacking times, sleep habits, and alcohol consumption, with a few interesting results. According to collected data, any of the following may be related to increased obesity risk:

  • Eating dinner within two hours of sleeping
  • Snacking after dinner
  • Skipping breakfast

Study authors were unable to draw conclusions regarding alcohol consumption, sleep habits, and smoking.

Keep in mind, of course, that this study was a general survey, relying on participant responses to questions, and not a controlled experiment. Results are therefore more about interesting correlations rather than causation.

But still, these are things to be mindful of in our own daily lives and (for researchers) possible topics for further study.

*In an interesting side note, the Japanese study defines obesity as a Body Mass Index of 25.0 or greater. Meanwhile in the United States, a 25+ BMI is simply overweight. We don’t consider ourselves obese until our BMI reaches 30.0. Somebody is grading on a curve.