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Do you tend to scarf down your meals?
How many times do you chew per bite? If you’re looking for healthy digestion, alertness, and weight, these are questions you should consider. It’s not just what you eat that’s important, but how.
There are some important eating rules linked to obesity, weight gain, and healthy weight loss.
Eating on the run, in a hurry, or while distracted is a big-time no-no in the traditional cultures I have studied. Dan Buettner describes, in his book The Blue Zones, that centenarians would downshift around 5 p.m. before dinner and relax. They would eat to only 80 percent full and never stuff themselves. Their entire culture is slow-paced.
Not so fast!
New studies compare the risks of eating too fast and the benefits of eating slowly. In one study, fast eaters had a 2.8 percent increased risk of obesity.
In another study, 529 male workers were evaluated for eight years. The fast-eaters gained almost three times as much weight as the medium and slow-eaters. The weight gain in the fast-eating group was statistically significant even after adjusting for age, body mass index, drinking, smoking, and exercise.
More than 4,700 Japanese men and women from age 20 to middle age evaluated their eating speed with a self-administered exam. The results were conclusive that for middle-aged men and women, eating fast leads to obesity.
Finally, in a review of 23 studies comparing the pros and cons of slow and fast eating, it was concluded that eating quickly is positively associated with excess body weight.
Slow down and win the race
Eating slowly gives the digestive system time to send satiety messages to the brain to slow or stop secreting ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Without giving the digestive system time to register the impact of the meal, we can easily overeat.
In one study, eating slowly significantly lowered caloric intake and led to lower hunger ratings in both a normal and overweight group. Eating slowly also increased fullness ratings in the normal-weight group at 60 minutes from when the meal began.
In another study, a bowl of ice cream was eaten at different rates. One group ate it in five minutes and the other group took their time and ate it in 30 minutes. There was significantly greater fullness measured immediately after the 30-minute bowl compared to the 5-minute bowl.
In a group of 30 healthy women, fast and slow eating were evaluated. They rated perceived hunger, satiety, desire to eat, thirst, and meal palatability on visual analogue scales. The slow-eating group ate less calories than the fast-eating group. The fast-eating group had less satiety, suggesting that feeling full, being satisfied from the meal, and eating less calories result from eating slowly and enjoying meals.
Chew More, Weigh Less
Yup, studies show that when you chew your food more, you’ll lose weight. Folks who are obese have a tendency to chew less and eat faster. Ten studies have linked more chews while eating to greater weight loss.
Chewing may be the best way to slow down and enjoy your meals. Of course, there are other ways, as well:
Ways to Slow Down Eating
- Eat with your hands
- Sip tea or hot water between bites
- Eat whole, unrefined, non-processed foods, which require chewing
- Put the fork down between bites
- Enjoy casual conversation
- Say grace before the meal to set a slow tone
- Don’t eat distracted with a phone, book, screen, or TV
- Now for the science on chewing!
In one study, 45 healthy adults were to normally eat a pizza and their number of chews were counted. They were asked in subsequent meals to increase their number of chews by 100 percent, 150 percent, and 200 percent above baseline. So if the baseline was 50 chews, the 150 percent group would be 75 chews and the 200 percent group would be 100 chews. The 150 percent group ate almost 10 percent less and the 200 percent increase led to almost 15 percent fewer calories.
One study concludes that chewing stimulation reduced appetite based on a subjective measurement. These findings suggest that chewing stimulation, even without taste, odor, or ingestion, may affect reward circuits and help prevent impulsive eating.
Chewing and Alertness
In Colorado, school kids are encouraged to chew gum during standardized testing. This is based on studies finding that chewing increases alertness and intellectual performance. Other studies have replicated these results without gum and found that it is just the act of chewing that increases attention, alertness, and intellectual performance.
Slow down, chew, and enjoy your food. Your body will thank you.