There are many things regarding food that are said to be good or bad for you, but you may not have thought of this one: Eating too fast can literally do you in, and in a few more ways than what might be obvious. When you’re really hungry and what you’re eating is just so amazingly good — that’s a perfect recipe for eating too fast, which may present a choking hazard, but there’s more than that you should be aware of.
A new study shows that the habit of “shoveling in” one bite after another may not only require you to loosen your belt; it may even up your odds for one or more of the “big three” cardiometabolic conditions: heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and what’s known as a “cluster” of five risk factors. Medical News Today1 lists them:
- High blood pressure
- High triglycerides (the fats found in the blood)
- High fasting blood sugar
- Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- A large waistline
Obesity plays straight into the hands of metabolic syndrome, and more people than ever are developing the above risk factors. In fact, 34 percent of adults in the U.S. have three of these symptoms, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reveals. Globally, the problem may impact as many as 84 percent of the adult population.2 Metabolic syndrome may even jump ahead of smoking as the biggest risk factor for heart disease.3
Further, studies indicate that relative to normal weight, obesity is associated with “significantly higher” all-cause mortality.4 It’s hard to believe that eating too fast could have anything to do with those statistics, but studies show it does.
Japanese Study Shows ‘Wolfing’ Food Down Could Be a Killer
Cardiologist Takayuki Yamaji from Hiroshima University in Japan was the lead author of the study, which involved nearly 1,100 generally healthy male and female participants over five years, the average being around 51 years of age. Study subjects were divided into three groups, each categorizing themselves as slow, normal or fast eaters.
Over the five years, 84 of the participants developed metabolic syndrome. The result: Your cardiometabolic health could suffer serious harm if you gobble down your food too fast. In fact, it constituted a two-times higher likelihood they would develop metabolic symptoms compared to their slower-eating cohorts, with a spread of a 2.3 percent likelihood for slow eaters and an 11.6 percent chance for the fastest ones.
The study concluded by saying, “Eating speed was associated with obesity and future prevalence of metabolic syndrome. Eating slowly may therefore … be a crucial lifestyle factor for preventing metabolic syndrome among the Japanese.”5 The Economic Times November 16, 2017, quoted Yamaji:
“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. We also believe our research would apply to a U.S. population.”6
Counting Your Chews; Counting Your Bites
Not many would disagree that bolting food down too quickly can contribute to indigestion, and sometimes be downright painful. But chewing slowly helps with the mastication-to-digestion process, starting in your mouth.
Chewing more slowly helps break down your food faster, and saliva, which contains an enzyme called lingual lipase to help break down fats, helps (quite a bit) when you swallow. The longer you chew, the more time those enzymes have to start breaking down your food. The process makes digestion easier on your stomach and small intestine, because digestion actually takes a lot of energy. Slowing down makes it easier for your intestines to absorb the nutrients in the foods you eat.
One study demonstrated the point very well: When study participants ate almonds quickly and chewed less (10 times, as opposed to 25 times or 40 times per bite), scientists found that their bodies failed to take in all the considerable nutrients almonds have to offer; the bits simply passed through and were eliminated. For those who chewed the most, the particles, hence the nutrition, were absorbed faster.7
If you want to see if chewing more thoroughly may help you eat less, you must first determine how many times you generally chew when you take a bite of food, especially something substantial, like meat or almonds.
Also, try counting how many bites of food you take when eating, like the participants of another study, who called that number the “bite baseline.” Participants were then asked to reduce the number of bites they took in their meals by 20 percent to 30 percent. According to The New York Times,8 altogether, the study subjects lost an average of 3.5 pounds.9
Besides many potential health benefits, chewing slowly and methodically — even thoughtfully — helps you relax better so you can enjoy your meals. Rushing through just to get it down so you can continue whatever it is you’re doing isn’t conducive to proper digestion. You can’t really even taste or enjoy the foods you eat.