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Eating Too Fast May be Dangerous to Your Health

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Business Man Eating HamburgerThere’s hardly a person on earth who hasn’t scarfed down a meal at one time or another. Other than feeling overstuffed and guilty — and maybe gaining an extra pound that needs to be worked off over the next few days — eating too fast isn’t really a problem, is it?

Well, according to a study out of Lithuania, it turns out that eating too quickly may actually be a factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.[1]

The study included two groups of individuals:

1. Two hundred and thirty-four people (aged 35 to 86) who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within the past year

2. Four hundred and sixty-eight control subjects who did not have type 2 diabetes or impaired fasting glucose levels

The participants ate their meals with other people, and were asked to report their speed of eating compared with the other people at the table. They were given the following descriptions to compare their eating speeds with their tablemates: very slowly, relatively slower, the same as the other subjects, relatively faster and very fast.

After adjusting for certain variables like family history of diabetes, body mass index, waist circumference, morning exercise, education level and triglyceride levels, researchers found that those who ate faster had a more than two-fold greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those who ate slowly.

What’s the Connection?

The biggest reason for the link between eating fast and diabetes is that “speed eating” usually causes you to eat more than necessary to feel full. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to realize that you’re full and subsequently send signals to make you stop eating. One study out of the Universityof Rhode Islandin Kingstonshowed that speed eaters ate about 70 calories more per meal than slow eaters.[2]

The overeating that comes with speed eating presents its own set of problems, including higher body mass index, weight gain, and elevated blood pressure and cholesterol. And, of course, the higher your body mass index and weight, the greater your risk for diabetes. So the connection makes sense.

7 Tips for Slowing the Fork Down

Sometimes it’s hard to sit down and eat slowly. Our “on-the-go” lifestyles often require us to grab hasty lunches before our next meeting. And drive-through breakfasts eaten in the car are more common than ever.

But if you want to keep your weight in check and prevent diabetes in the process, eating more slowly may just be the ticket.

Here are some tips to help you slow down:

1. Try to avoid multitasking at mealtime. Sit down at the table to eat instead of eating on the run or in the car, or while doing things around the house. This can be challenging for all meals, but strive to do it most of the time.

2. Eat with smaller utensils like your dessert fork or teaspoon, or even chopsticks. You’ll take smaller bites because you won’t be able to fit as much food on these utensils, making your meal last longer.

3. Put your utensil down while you’re chewing.

4. With each bite, chew your food 15-20 times before swallowing.

5. While you’re chewing, pay attention to the taste and texture of your food. Savor it and enjoy it. Most people eat so absentmindedly they don’t even remember how their food tasted!

6. Take frequent sips of water in between bites.

7. Finally, engaging in stimulating dinnertime conversation with your spouse or children can make mealtime last longer and create a stronger connection with family members, all while helping you eat less. It’s a win-win.

[1] Radzeviciene L and Ostrauskas R. Fast eating and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A case-control study. Clin Nutr. 2012 Jul 14. [Epub ahead of print.]

[2] Andrade AM, Greene GW and Melanson KJ. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:1186–91.

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