Slow your roll! Photo: ISTOCK

Rhythm and relaxation at mealtimes could be a decisive factor in terms of staying fit and losing weight. According to a new study published in the BMJ Open journal, eating slower can inhibit the development of obesity.

 

The investigation, dubbed "Effects of changes in eating speed on obesity in patients with diabetes: a secondary analysis of longitudinal health check-up data,” was conducted by Yumi Hurst and Haruhisa Fukuda from the Department of Health Care Administration and Management, Kyushu University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Fukuoka, Japan.

 

The researchers tracked the eating habits of nearly 60k participants with type 2 diabetes, over a period of close to six years, and analysed Japanese health insurance and check-up data collected between 2008 and 2013. They also tracked lifestyle habits including eating speed, alcohol consumption and after-dinner snacking.

 

Researchers discovered those who ate more slowly tended to be thinner:

 

“Eating slower inhibited the development of obesity," the authors wrote. "Slow and normal-speed eaters were less likely to be obese than fast eaters. Similarly, the fixed-effects models showed that eating slower reduced body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference."

The study also revealed that 21.5 percent of people who described themselves as slow eaters were obese, compared to nearly 30 percent of normal-speed eaters, and 45 percent of fast eaters. 

It was also found that the the slow-eating group had a significantly higher proportion of women (44.4 per cent), lower mean BMI, lower proportion of obese individuals (21.5 per cent), smaller mean waist circumference, lower alcohol consumption frequency (every day: 22.8 per cent; occasionally: 27.5 per cent; rarely or never: 49.7 per cent) and lower proportion of habitual smokers (27.3 per cent) when compared with the other two groups. 

In contrast, the fast-eating group had a significantly lower proportion of women (27.3 per cent), but a significantly higher mean BMI , higher proportion of obese individuals (44.8 per cent) and larger mean waist circumference.

Although the study recognizes certain weaknesses, such as the fact that eating speed was self-reported and subjective, and only people with type 2 diabetes were included, the authors conclude that “changes in eating habits can affect obesity, BMI and waist circumference," and that "interventions aimed at altering eating habits, such as education initiatives and programs to reduce eating speed, may be useful in preventing obesity and reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases.”