People who take their time eating meals, rather than scarfing them down in a hurry, are less likely to become obese or develop metabolic syndrome — a group of conditions that raise a person’s risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke — according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2017 on Monday.
The preliminary study was done by Japanese experts, but they believe the findings would also apply to the U.S. population.
“Eating more slowly may be a crucial lifestyle change to help prevent metabolic syndrome,” said Dr. Takayuki Yamaji, the study author and cardiologist at Hiroshima University in Japan, in a statement.
“When people eat fast they tend not to feel full and are more likely to overeat. Eating fast causes bigger glucose fluctuation, which can lead to insulin resistance.”
You’re diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you have at least three of the following five risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- High levels of triglycerides in your blood
- Low levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, in your blood
- A large waistline
The study involved more than 1,000 people who didn’t have metabolic syndrome in 2008 and who were divided into three groups: slow eaters, fast eaters and those who ate at a normal speed. After five years, the fast eaters were more likely to have developed metabolic syndrome than the others. Their speedy eating style was associated with more weight gain, higher blood sugar and a larger waistline.
Why would devouring your food make such a difference?
It takes about 20 minutes for signals from your stomach indicating that you’re full to reach your brain. If you’re speed-eating during that time, you’ll consume much more than someone who is eating slowly.
How to add some speed bumps to your routine:
• As a basic guideline, take at least 15-20 minutes to eat a meal.
• Use toddler silverware or a salad fork, which will limit how much food you can scoop up. Chopsticks can also be good for this purpose.
• Use your non-dominant hand to hold the fork.
• Put down your fork between bites.
• Put away electronic devices and don’t watch TV when you eat — it’ll help you stay mindful and aware of how much you are putting in your mouth.
• Take a moment to eat with your eyes closed. Notice the taste, the temperature and the texture of your meal. You’ll eat less when you appreciate more.