Feb 12, 2018, 5:37 PM ET

Eating slower could help prevent obesity, researchers say

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Speedy eaters might finish their food faster, but those calories might linger longer.

A new study published in the online journal BMJ Open suggests that eating speed could affect a person's weight.

A research team in Japan set out to analyze the effects of eating speed on obesity -- defined as BMI greater than 25 in Japan -- by asking over 59,000 Japanese men and women with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes to rate their own eating speed as fast, normal or slow.

The results showed that slower eating speeds were linked to reductions in obesity, BMI and waist circumference.

In addition to eating speed, the researchers found a few other eating habits people with obesity showed, such as frequently eating dinner within two hours of going to bed, snacking after dinner and skipping breakfast.

The data in this study is based on observed behaviors that had happened in the past, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about whether eating speed is a cause of obesity.

However, the authors said that controlling eating speed may be a means of regulating body weight and helping to prevent obesity.

PHOTO: A healthy breakfast of muesli and milk is pictured in this undated stock photo.STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
A healthy breakfast of muesli and milk is pictured in this undated stock photo.

A possible reason? Fast eaters may continue to eat even after they are full, even when their bodies have an adequate amount of calories, since the brain takes a little time to interpret chemical signals from the stomach that say "enough." The combined effect of eating quickly and overeating may contribute to weight gain.

So methods to help people reduce their eating speed, the authors conclude, could be an effective way to help prevent obesity and lower the many health risks, like diabetes, that come with it.

Jay-Sheree Allen is a family medicine resident physician at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and a resident at the ABC News Medical Unit.

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  • Bev Guyer

    Eat off of a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, and use a salad fork, as well. Also, only put 1/2 a salad forkful of food on the fork at a time.

  • just saying

    if calories make you gain weight...eat less.

  • Sally

    Eating slower makes you eat less. People are eating on the run and gulping their food down

  • gs12

    I suspect eating one of those plates of food instead of all four would also help with the obesity issue.

  • MandalayBay328

    NO DUH! Thats been common knowledge for years - the slower you eat the longer the food gets to settle and process. It causes you to feel fuller faster than scarfing down your meal in 4 minutes. But then again we live in a rush rush society where everything had to be done yesterday.

  • ShawnLetwin

    Guessing this study was probably funded by a government grant or subsidy. Private industry wouldn't spend the money on something that has been proven repeatedly decades ago...no they won't do that until businesses figure out how to balance and artificially regulate the hormones connected to feeling hungry and full (which are regulated/stimulated by the hypothalamus).

  • Anthony Martin

    Make a decision not to get fat when you are 11 also works.

  • carcar

    lol. how about eating less...?

  • murray

    eating a lot less is more effective.

  • Dicazi

    I frequently read a book or newspaper while eating.....slowly.
    While eating with others, I'm frequently the last one to finish.
    I have been overweight for decades.
    And this study was done in a single culture. A single genetic group. The results may not be similar in other groups.

  • Tony Bluegoat

    New study just out from "DUH University" Eating Less cures obesity. (They'll send the bill to the Department of Health)

  • NellieMaes

    Eating less and getting off your butt works, too.

  • Holmes

    Chewing your food better should go a long way also...

  • xThatxSamexDudex

    Expert Advice: Cut back on calorie rich food, eat small meals, snacks are fine(if healthy), eat slowly to avoid apathy from overeating and stop eating once you feel "not hungry" rather than "stuffed".
    Where's my Nobel Prize?

  • Guest

    Old, old news!

  • HamburgerHelperAgain

    And don't forget to masticate. Lots of mastication.