One Way to Cut Out Unwanted Calories: Don’t Eat So Fast

Remember when you were a kid your mother would always tell you to eat your dinner slowly and carefully chew your food? And, you would just laugh and think it was another one of her crazy rules.

It seems our moms did know best. Several studies have shown that people consume more calories when they eat fast. It is one of the main reasons why eating slowly is often advised when a person is trying to maintain or lose weight.

Eating Speed Affects Obesity Hormone Levels

In fact, a study published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reinforces this point. This study found that when men ate an identical serving of ice cream, they released more hormones that made them feel full when they ate the ice cream over the course of a half hour compared to men who ate the same amount of ice cream in five minutes. It was the first study to find that there are possible physiological reasons behind feeling satiated following the slow consumption of food.

In this study, 17 healthy men were given the opportunity to eat the same meal—300 ml of ice cream—under two different conditions. Under the first condition, the meal was divided into two equal portions and the men were asked to eat the first portion, wait five minutes and then eat the second portion. Under the second, the meal was divided into seven equal portions and the men ate a portion every five minutes over the course of 30 minutes.

Through blood samples taken before and in 30-minute intervals after eating the meal for a total of three and a half hours, researchers found that the body released more amounts of two anti-obesity hormones, called glucagon-like peptide-1 and peptide YY, after the 30-minute meal. The higher level of these hormones made the men feel fuller following the longer, 30-minute meal compared to the short, five-minute meal.

When You Eat Slowly You Consume Less Food

Other studies have come to similar conclusions. A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that implementing things like taking small bites, putting down the utensils between bites and chewing all food thoroughly work synergistically to maximize the overall feeling of being full.

In this study, 30 healthy women from the University of Rhode Island were instructed to eat a generous 600 gram portion of lunch with water, at two different intervals. Under the first, they were instructed to eat as much of the food as they wanted until they were full, but they had to eat it quickly with a large soup spoon with no pauses between bites. During the second interval, the women were asked to consume the food using a small teaspoon while taking small bites, putting the spoon down between bites and chew each bite 20 to 30 times before swallowing.

This study found that although the length of the meal time was about 20 minutes longer when eating slowly, the women consumed less food as compared to eating quickly. Additionally, despite an overall higher food intake seen when eating quickly, women reported feeling less satisfied with the food as compared to consuming it more slowly. The women also reported that eating slowly was a more pleasant way to eat.

What did these results mean? First, the study found that longer meal time can allow the body’s signals of satiety to develop before too much food has been consumed. Second, the strategy of taking small bites, putting down the utensils and chewing food thoroughly was useful in slowing down the overall pace of consumption, making it easier for women to eat less and feel more satisfied. Additionally, the study found that when eating slowly, the women drank more water, which also may have contributed to their overall feelings of satiety. Finally, eating more slowly allows more time to enjoy the sight, smell, and taste of the food, making it a more pleasant experience.

Eating Fast Is Associated With Eating More And Being Overweight

Another study published in 2008 in the British Medical Journal found that eating until full and eating quickly was associated with being overweight and that the combination of the two may have a considerable impact on becoming overweight.

In this study, more than 4,100 Japanese men and women participated in self-administered surveys on diet history and cardiovascular risk. The participants were asked it they ate until full and the speed to which they ate: very slow, slow, medium, fast and very fast. The study found that the group of people who indicated they ate quickly (fast and very fast) had the highest weight, body mass index and total food intake as compared to other people who reported eating at very slow, slow or medium rates. Additionally, the group that ate more quickly was found to be overweight compare to their slower-eating counterparts.

What Do All These Studies Show?

The take away point is, obviously, to eat more slowly. Even if you are very hungry, there is no reason to gulp down your food. In fact, eating more slowly actually makes you feel fuller, faster and will help keep those extra pounds off your waistline. Also, remember that your mother may actually know what she is talking about!

About the Author

Matt Constas, PhD, is a biochemist and postdoctoral fellow at St. Louis University who enjoys reading the current scientific studies in the area of nutrition, diet and weight loss. You can visit his site at All You On a Diet Readers are eligible to receive coupons for diet to go.

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Juan said on May 10th at 9:23 am

To acquire the habit of eating slowly, keep your food warm on the plate; if your food gets cold you will be discouraged, but if you keep it warm it will be a pleasant experience that your brain will register and after several repetitions you will acquire the habit. Google: “Plates for eating slowly” or “Heat Retentive Plates”

Ernesto said on May 17th at 8:50 am

Good tip Juan.

Juan J Ramirez said on June 4th at 9:02 am

The only two ways to lose weight are: a) Eat less calories and b) Burn more calories; Everybody knows about diets of healthy food and exercise, Read: “How to lose weight by eating slowly”, give your brain the 20 minutes it needs to get the signal that you are satisfied, stop eating when you are satisfied not when your stomach is bloated (But you still feel hungry). There are now ceramic “Plates for eating slowly” on the market; they keep your food warm, it is an entirely new technology, Google them, they are also known as “Heat retentive plates” need only one minute preheating in the microwave oven, can be handled with the bare hands and remain STILL HOT after 30 minutes to keep your food warm (They were designed as “Gourmet plates” simply to enjoy hot food).


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