Disease Prevention: Diabetes and Heart Problems Can Be Avoided if You Eat Slower

Growing up, your parents probably delivered lectures about your eating habits, namely getting enough fruits and vegetables, not playing with your food, and not scarfing down the contents of your plate. Turns out, wise mom was right again when it comes to chewing thoroughly—the American Heart Association released new information that gobbling down your food could damage your heart and cause weight gain.

Related: Low-Calorie Diet Could Help Reverse Type 2 Diabetes 

Researchers from the organization presented their findings about eating pace and health at the 2017 Scientific Sessions, a conference where researchers and clinicians discuss the newest heart health advances.

11_13_2017_eating Eating slowly is good for your weight and heart, suggests new study. BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

According to a release, people who ate slowly were less likely to be obese or develop metabolic syndrome, which are among a variety of factors that increase your risk of health problems like diabetes or heart disease. These factors include: excess stomach fat, typically seen in apple-shaped bodies; elevated blood sugar; high blood pressure; high triglycerides; and low HDL cholesterol, also what people usually refer to as “the good kind.”

For the study, researchers looked at data on 642 men and 441 women whose average age was 51 years old. None of the participants started with metabolic syndrome, and everyone was separated by their eating speeds, categorized as either slow, normal or fast.  

Over the course of five years, fast eaters were 11.6 percent more likely to have metabolic syndrome than normal eaters. Those who ate at normal speeds had a 6.5 percent chance of developing the syndrome while only 2.3 percent of slow eaters were at risk. The team determined that eating quickly was linked to being heavier, having more stomach fat and having higher blood glucose.

While there are some things you can’t change about your heart disease risk, this new study shows that this simple solution could make a big impact on your health.

"Eating more slowly may be a crucial lifestyle change to help prevent metabolic syndrome," study author Takayuki Yamaji, a cardiologist at Hiroshima University in Japan, said in a statement. "When people eat fast they tend not to feel full and are more likely to overeat. Eating fast causes bigger glucose fluctuation, which can lead to insulin resistance."

11_13_2017 Eating slower helps prevent heart disease because you consume fewer calories. YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP/Getty Images

Being a slow poke during meal time has been a common strategy for dieters, but a study in 2015 delved into why this strategy is associated with a lower body mass index. They found that people who ate more slowly not only felt fuller at the end of the meal, but also believed they ate a larger portion than was actually consumed. However, the results did not show that the memory of what was consumed affected portion size of subsequent meals.

Still, when it comes to chowing down, this is the one area it seems to pay to be slow.

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