Eating slowly may help prevent obesity, say researchers

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The findings suggest the speed at which we eat along with cutting out after dinner snacks and not having any food within two hours of going to sleep are key factors in shedding the pounds. During those appointments, people were asked about their eating and sleeping habits, including how fast they typically ate and whether they regularly skipped breakfast, snacked after dinner or ate before bed.

Changes in these eating habits were strongly associated with lower obesity and weight (BMI), and smaller waist circumference, the researchers found.

During the study period, 51.9% of participants changed their eating speed from baseline; 0.29% switched from being fast eaters to slow eaters, and 0.15% changed from being slow eaters to fast eaters.

At the beginning of the study, more than 22,000 participants ate quickly, 33,500 ate at a normal pace and 4,200 ate slowly.

The team also noted changes in eating speed over the six years, with more than half the trial group reporting an adjustment in one direction or the other.

Compared to those who wolfed down their food quickly, those who ate at a normal speed were 29% less likely to be obese. Reductions in waist size were also greater among slow and normal speed eaters.

A recent study published in The Lancet medical journal reported that nearly a third of Irish children are now overweight and the country ranks 58th out of 200 countries for its proportion of overweight youths.

"Skipping breakfast has also been shown to be associated with excess weight and obesity, and is a risk factor of metabolic syndrome", the authors wrote in their study.

Pauses targeted at lessening the eating speed may prove effective in preventing obesity and reducing the linked health risks.

Researchers based ther findings on health insurance data for 60,000 people with diabetes in Japan who submitted claims and had regular health check-ups between 2008 and 2013. Waist circumference was found to be directly proportional to eating speed as well.

But most importantly, those who slowed down while they ate tended to lose weight, according to researchers. Eating quickly also causes bigger blood sugar fluctuations which can lead to insulin resistance.

But he said that relying on the participants themselves to score whether they eat slowly, or fast, was "considerably subjective" and may skew the data.

It was an observational study, rather than a study where participants are getting assigned in random groups and requested to eat at different rates.

Researchers speculate that this is because it takes time for the satiety signal to travel from the stomach to the brain. 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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