Why Those Who Eat Slower May Have Better Waistlines


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Eating quickly may not only cause an upset stomach. It may also increase your risk for developing some life-threatening diseases.

In a recent Japanese study, researchers found that fast eaters are five times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome (Mets), which is the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, including diabetes and stroke.

These five conditions are considered metabolic risk factors:

  • Having a large waistline, also called abdominal obesity. Fat in the stomach area (visceral fat) is more dangerous than fat located on other parts of the body and puts you at a greater risk for heart disease.
  • Having a high triglyceride (type of fat found in the blood) level or you are on medication to treat high triglycerides.
  • Having low HDL cholesterol or being on medication to treat low HDL. HDL, also called “good” cholesterol, helps remove bad cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol puts you at a greater risk for heart disease.
  • Having high blood pressure or being on medication to treat high blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure may damage the heart and lead to plaque buildup.
  • Having a high fasting blood sugar or being on medication to treat high blood sugar. Just having a mildly high fasting blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

You must have at least three of these metabolic risk factors, in order to have metabolic syndrome. Very often, these conditions are interrelated. So if you have one of them, you will likely have others.

Approximately 34 percent of American adults have metabolic syndrome, according to the American Heart Association. The risk of developing Mets increases with age.

The study evaluated 1083 subjects (642 male subjects, 441 female subjects; mean age 51.2 years) who underwent health examination programs in 2008 and 2013 and did not have metabolic syndrome in 2008.

Participants were divided into three eating-speed categories: slow, normal and fast.

Lifestyle factors, including level of physical activity, medical history and dietary behaviors were taken into account.

Weight gain was defined as gained over 10 kg (about 22 lbs) from their weight at age 20.

At the 5-year check-in, 84 people were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

“The incidence rates of metabolic syndrome among slow, normal and fast-eating participants were 2.3, 6.5 and 11.6%, respectively,” according to the study. “Eating speed was significantly correlated with weight gain [including a larger waistline], triglyceride (TG) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) components of metabolic risk factors.”

So what is it about shoveling down your food that may put you at a greater risk for having metabolic syndrome?

One possibility is that you are more likely to overeat if you eat fast. If you eat slower, your brain is more likely to get the “I am full signals.” If you are constantly eating fast and overeating, you are putting yourself at a greater risk for becoming overweight or obese and, as a result, putting yourself at a greater risk for Mets.

Eating quickly may also cause fluctuations in your blood sugar level, which may cause insulin resistance. Researchers also linked fast eating to higher blood glucose.

So how can we be proactive, other than just slowing down?!

  • Sip water in between bites. If you tend to eat on the fast side, drinking water in between every two bites, or so, will likely help you slow down. And drinking water may help you feel full quicker.
  • Eat water rich foods, like cucumbers. Sometimes it’s hard to drink a lot of water throughout the day. And although it is extremely important to drink plenty of water, it can honestly get boring. You should still drink water, but if you find you have a hard time getting the necessary intake, eating water rich foods will help you attain your daily water goal. In addition to this, many people confuse dehydration with hunger. So if you stay hydrated, you may experience less hunger pangs.
  • Eat lunch away from your desk and away from the computer screen. Many of us do not take the time to actually enjoy our meals, because we are so busy. Eat lunch with friends and coworkers, and make sit down family dinner time a priority. If you are conversing and interacting with other people, you may not eat as fast.
  • Be conscious about chewing your food thoroughly. This may help you feel more satisfied and provide better digestion.
  • Have a good exercise regimen. Learn more here about how much and what type of exercise is appropriate for your age group.
  • Eat a healthy diet with all of the essential vitamins and minerals. To learn more about specific nutrients that may help with weight management, click here.
  • Make sure your gut is balanced. To learn more about how the right probiotics may help you lose weight, click here.
  • Get tested. One of the important steps to take prior to starting any weight loss program or managing your weight is to be tested for any nutrient imbalances. This will allow you to tailor your diet to exactly what your body needs to function at its best.  

When it comes to eating, slow and steady definitely wins the race when it comes to our health.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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