Slow Eating Might Help Curb Calories01/03/14
THURSDAY, Jan. 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- As people look for
fresh strategies to cut back on calories and shed pounds, a new
study suggests that simply eating more slowly can significantly
reduce how much people eat in a single sitting.
The study involved a small group of both normal-weight and obese
or overweight participants. All were given an opportunity to eat a
meal under relaxed, slow-speed conditions, and then in a
time-constrained, fast-speed environment.
The catch: Although all participants consumed less when eating
slowly and all said they felt less hungry after eating a slow meal
compared to a fast meal, only people who were considered normal
weight actually reduced their calorie intake significantly when
eating more slowly.
"One possible reason [for the calorie drop seen] may be that slower eating allows people to better sense their feelings of hunger and fullness," said study author Meena Shah, a professor in the department of kinesiology at Texas Christian University, in Fort Worth.
Slow eating also seemed to increase water intake and stomach
swelling, Shah said, while also affecting the biological process
that determines how much food people consume.
The study was published online Jan. 2 in the
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Although just less than 15 percent of Americans were obese in
the early 1970s, that figure increased to nearly 36 percent by
2010, the researchers said.
To explore a potential connection between slow eating and
reduced caloric intake, the team focused on 35 normal-weight men
and women and 35 overweight or obese men and women.
During a two-day study period, all were asked to consume the
exact same meals under two conditions. The "slow" meal was spread
over an average of 22 minutes per meal, involving small bites and
deliberate chewing without concern for time. The "fast" meal
involved large bites and quick chewing, under the notion that time
was of the essence. The average fast-meal time was about nine
The result: Normal-weight participants were found to consume 88
fewer calories when eating slowly, a decrease deemed "significant."
By contrast, the obese/overweight group saw only a 58-calorie
reduction during the slow-eating session, which was not considered
The researchers said the obese/overweight group actually
consumed less food overall during both the slow- and fast-eating
sessions than the normal-weight group. That finding might explain
the smaller calorie drop during the first group's slow-eating
trial, they said.
Some self-consciousness among the participants might also have
affected eating patterns, leading them to consume food in a manner
that differed from a private, real-world setting. "There is always
the possibility that people will eat differently when they are
being observed," Shah said.
Both groups ate less when eating slowly, however, and a notable
spike in water intake during the slow-eating test might be a major
reason why. When eating slowly, water intake increased by 27
percent among the normal-weight group, and by 33 percent among the
Susan Roberts, a senior scientist with the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, suggested that the study suffers from a number of
"First of all, slow eating reduces [calorie] intake by 10 percent in the normal-weight folk and 8 percent in the obese ones," said Roberts, who works at the nutrition research center at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. "The 10 percent is [deemed] statistically significant, whereas the 8 percent is not. However, there is no significant difference between 8 percent and 10 percent, meaning ... there is no difference in the effect of eating speed on [calorie] intake according to whether you are obese or lean."
"More importantly," she added, "the obese individuals in the study substantially under-ate during the measurements, which calls into question whether the results are meaningful and repeatable."
Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said the
study did not control for a number of factors that could have
influenced the findings. That makes it impossible to conclude that
there is any direct cause and effect between slower eating and
lower food consumption, she said.
"However, there are other theories and camps of research that support the theory that we consume less when we eat more slowly," said Sandon, a registered dietitian. "Taking time to enjoy and be more mindful of the food we are eating is associated with eating less."
"[But] it may be a better strategy for preventing weight gain, as opposed to treating overweight and obesity," Sandon said.
To learn more about healthy weight, visit the
U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood
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