Resisting the urge to wolf down your lunch or inhale an entire 12-inch Meat Feast in one sitting is lauded by most as a sign of restraint (and good table manners), but it seems that eating slowly and savouring the mouthfuls could also have its health benefits.
According to a new study from scientists at Hiroshima University in Japan, eating slowly could reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.
Presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions symposium, the study details the researchers’ findings after following more than 1,000 middle-aged men and women for five years, monitoring their health and eating speed.
Participants were then divided into a "fast," "slow," or "normal" category, based on how they described their usual eating speed. At the end of the five years, researchers found that the fast eaters were 11.6 percent more likely to have developed metabolic syndrome than participants in the normal and slow eating categories. Eating quickly was also linked to increased weight gain and higher blood glucose.
The scientists believe that this is because eating too quickly can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, leading to insulin resistance. Bolting your food can also prevent the brain from knowing when the body has taken in too many calories.
Study author Takayuki Yamaji, a cardiologist at Hiroshima University, explained these results: “Eating more slowly may be a crucial lifestyle change to help prevent metabolic syndrome. 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.”
Yamaji added that the study’s findings would also “apply to a US population” and its advocacy of taking time over our meals has been supported by British health charities.
Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation told The Daily Telegraph: “If anything, it’s a reminder that many of us have hectic lifestyles which may include eating quickly at the desk over lunchtime, or in a rush commuting home. When doing this, it’s important that people take the time to choose healthy balanced options, rather than just reaching for ready meals or takeaways.”
Perhaps slow and steady does win the race.