If you were asked the speed at which you eat – slow, normal, or fast – what would you say?
That same question was posed to over a thousand healthy volunteers in Japan. The answers they gave led to an important discovery regarding their future health.
If you want to avoid a serious condition that now affects one in three Americans, it would be wise to take note of what this study discovered.
The 5 Risk Factors of Metabolic Syndrome
1,083 Japanese men and women with an average age of 51 volunteered for the study in 2008. Besides asking how quickly they ate their food, the researchers gathered information on lifestyle, diet, physical activity and medical history.
The participants were then reexamined five years later. During this time 84 received a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome – a precursor to diabetes and other diseases.
A patient is deemed to have the syndrome if he or she has at least three factors out of five that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. These are high fasting blood sugar, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, low HDL ‘good’ cholesterol, and high triglycerides – the amount of fat circulating in the blood.
Cardiologist Dr. Takayuki Yamaji from Hiroshima University presented the results in November at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Anaheim, California.
Dramatic Consequences of Different Eating Speeds
After adjusting their findings for numerous factors that could give rise to misleading results, a new diagnosis of metabolic syndrome was 5½ times more prevalent in fast eaters compared to slow eaters. The incidence rates were
11.6%, 6.5% and 2.3% among fast, normal and slow eaters respectively.
Of the individual components of metabolic syndrome, fast eating was significantly associated with weight gain, increased triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol.
According to Dr. Yamaji, “Eating more slowly may be a crucial lifestyle change to help prevent metabolic syndrome.
“It takes 20 minutes for signals from your stomach – indicating that you are full – to reach your brain.
“When people eat fast they tend not to feel full and are more likely to overeat. If you chew your food many times, you spend more time at meals and you’re more likely to feel full.”
Dr. Yamaji believes the study findings also apply to Americans.
Earlier Trial Comes to Same Conclusion
This is not the first time eating speed has been linked to metabolic syndrome. In 2015, nearly 9,000 Japanese residents aged 40 – 75 participated in a similar trial and follow-up three years later. 647 were diagnosed with the condition during this period.
Although the findings were not as dramatic, fast eaters were still 30% more likely than slow eaters to receive a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome — an incidence of 3.1% compared with 2.3%. Components of metabolic syndrome that were tied to fast eating were increased waist circumference and low HDL cholesterol.
The study authors recommended eating slowly as “an important lifestyle factor for preventing metabolic syndrome…”
Dr. Yamaji’s Christmas Advice
Eating slowly also involves more chewing. This in turn helps to break down food and allows for easier digestion with less risk of issues like gas and bloating. More nutrients may also be absorbed from the food.
Lots of chewing also increases the heart rate and sends more oxygen to the brain. Some researchers believe it can even improve memory and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. So eating slowly is important for other reasons besides cardiovascular health.
If there is one meal that features a good deal of food it’s the traditional Christmas dinner.
So Dr. Yamaji offers some cautious advice: “Festive meals tend to have more calories. Please eat slowly and be careful not to eat too much.”
Easy to say, but when presented with a large, delicious meal, not so easy to apply!