We live in a fast-paced society. With everything going on in our lives, we have little time to relax. This goes for our meals as well. Many of us have little time to eat and we often find ourselves scarfing down food. With society becoming more aware of health and making conscious efforts to be healthy, we could be doing a lot of harm to our bodies by eating quickly.
People hardly enjoy their meals anymore. We eat so fast it seems like we forget to even chew. Could the benefits of eating slower outweigh the time we save eating quickly?
As you may or may not know, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the leading causes of death around the world. While there are many factors that contribute to CVD, a study in the Journal of Nutrients published earlier this year compared rates of eating to the risk of CVD. 792 participants were divided into slow, medium, and fast eating categories. While medium speed eaters did not contribute any significant results, fast eaters were positively correlated with an elevated risk of CVD.
You may be asking how eating slowly exactly relates to a higher risk for CVD. There is a hunger hormone called Ghrelin that stimulates appetite. Slower eating was shown to affect ghrelin levels by suppressing it. This study, also in the Journal of Nutrition, found that ghrelin levels were actually lower hours after the meal as well, so participants were less likely to snack.
This means eating fast doesn’t suppress ghrelin levels as well, leaving you hungry more often. A study by Otsuka, R., et al, published in the Journal of Epidemiology, compared eating fast and rates of obesity in Japan. After studying the 4,742 participants and their BMI change from age 20 and beyond, they concluded eating fast leads to obesity.
Furthermore, Tao, L., et al, studied eating speeds in China for the BMC Public Health. They found eating speed to be positively correlated to metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that raise the risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Eating quickly leaves you hungrier more often, which leads to an increased caloric intake. Over time, this will lead to weight gain and its ramifications on health.
There are other benefits of eating slowly. One is that it gives your body time to recognize its full. Depending on the person, it takes about 15-20 minutes for your stomach to send a signal to your brain telling it that it is full of food and thus you start getting full. Eating quickly means you ingest a lot more food before you feel full. Eating slowly can lead to smaller meals over time.
Another benefit is better digestion. Eating quickly doesn’t allow your GI tract to be ready for the meal in time. Fast eaters are also more likely to chew less meaning lumps of food are being forced into your stomach. It will take longer and more energy to digest food.
An easy way to slow down your meals and improve digestion is to chew more. Simply doubling the number of times you chew your food will make the meal longer. A study by Zhu, Y. and Hollis, J.H. proved this point. They had 45 individuals chew 100%, 150%, or 200% more than their baseline. Not only did this slow eating rate and prolong the meal, it caused less amount of food to be eaten.
Eating slowly is a simple yet overlooked method to improve health in numerous areas. Just by chewing and savoring the meal more, one can lose weight while decreasing the risk of a number of cardiovascular diseases. There are times when food must be scarfed down, but when there is extra time, enjoy the meal.
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