Why you should eat more slowly

Eating at a more leisurely pace can be good for your health.

Researchers in Japan have found that slowing down the speed at which we eat may help us lose weight.

It’s thought the reason slow eating may potentially prevent weight gain is because of how long it takes for people to feel full. It takes 15-20 minutes for natural feedback mechanisms to kick in.

“These are the physiological processes involved in recognising fullness, satiety and feeling satisfied from food,” Griffith University Associate Professor and dietician Ben Desbrow said.

When you’re eating quickly, your body doesn’t get a chance to signal to the brain that you are getting full and should probably stop eating.

“You’re gauging how much you’ve eaten on external cues, in terms of the visual size of the food or the social context, as opposed to how you feel internally about whether you’re satisfied or not,” Dr Desbrow said.

The Japanese study, published in the BMJ Open, looked at data collected from regular health check-ups and insurance claims from nearly 60,000 Japanese people with type 2 diabetes, over a period of five years.

During the health check-ups, participants were quizzed about their lifestyle, including whether their eating speed was fast, normal or slow, whether they regularly snacked after dinner, skipped breakfast, or ate within two hours of going to sleep.

The researchers found those who ate at a normal speed were 29% less likely to be obese than those who ate quickly. And those that ate slowly were even better off — they were 42% less likely to be obese when compared to fast eaters.

Slow eaters also had a lower BMI and smaller waist circumference, on average.

The researchers also found changes in these eating habits, such as eating slower and not snacking after dinner or before bed, were strongly associated with lower obesity, reduced BMI and smaller weight circumference.

According to Dr Desbrow, the slower and “more mindfully” you eat, the more attuned you are likely to be to your body and the feedback it’s giving you.

“We may live an increasingly fast-paced life, but our biological systems aren’t moving at the same rate that our working and social environments are changing,” he said.

“Food has never been more accessible, so it’s not as if we’re having to use external cues from the environment.

“We have to listen to our internal cues more robustly in order to understand what our body needs to survive.”

Dr Desbrow said the rate at which we eat may be somewhat of a proxy to our overall relationship with food, and that slowing down can help us to enjoy eating in the presence of other people.

Chewing your food slowly can not only help us enjoy it more, but it is much better for our health too.