Eat Slow, Stay Thin? Eating Speed May Impact Weight Loss, Study Shows

Think before you wolf down your next meal: Eating slowly might stifle weight gain, new research has shown.

In a study tracking the eating habits of nearly 60,000 participants with Type 2 diabetes, over a period of close to six years, researchers discovered those who ate more slowly tended to be thinner.

Becoming a slower eater over time was also linked to reductions in body mass index (BMI) and waistline. Future interventions targeting eating speed, the authors wrote, may prevent obesity.

The results were published in BMJ Open.

2_13_Cupcake A new study suggests that eating food more slowly is associated with a leaner waist and a lower body mass index. Natalie Barletta/Flickr

Researchers analyzed Japanese health insurance and checkup data collected between 2008 and 2013. They tracked lifestyle habits including eating speed, alcohol consumption and after-dinner snacking.

Statistical analysis revealed that 21.5 percent of people who described themselves as slow eaters were obese compared with nearly 30 percent of normal-speed eaters and 45 percent of fast eaters. Average BMI and waist circumference were both higher among those eating more quickly.

Read more: Trump's weight spawns another 'girther' movement on Twitter

In addition, getting a good night’s sleep, eating dinner earlier and not skipping breakfast were all linked to a lower chance of obesity.

Changing lifestyle habits

There is still hope even for life-long speed-eaters. The study linked changing behaviors, including eating speed, to a lower chance of obesity and a shrinking waistline.

However, the study had a number of weaknesses. Eating speed was self-reported and subjective, and only people with Type 2 diabetes were included.

But the researchers believe the results could still be useful for developing weight-related interventions.

“Changes in eating speed can affect changes in obesity, BMI and waist circumference. Interventions aimed at reducing eating speed may be effective in preventing obesity and lowering the associated health risks,” the authors wrote.

Read more: Weight gain is contagious and you could ‘catch’ obesity from your neighbours, study finds

Tam Fry, chairman of the U.K.'s National Obesity Forum, supported the study's findings, telling the Guardian: “The speed at which a lot of people wolf down their food is undeniably a contributor to obesity. It takes fast eaters longer to feel full simply because they don’t allow time for the gut hormones to tell the brain to stop eating. Eating quickly also causes bigger blood sugar fluctuations which can lead to insulin resistance.

“In particular, workers who snatch their lunch at the desk are doing their health no favours. They should stop what they’re doing, switch off their phones and emails and preferably take a half hour away from the office altogether.”

Some experts have questioned the findings, however.

Ian MacDonald, professor of metabolic physiology at the University of Nottingham, U.K, said: “It is certainly not appropriate to extrapolate from these observations to conclude about eating speed and the development of obesity—however attractive the idea that fast eaters are likely to eat more, and that eating more leads to weight gain.”