Wolfing down your dinner like it’s going out of fashion could be one of three things stopping you from losing weight.
Research published in the BMJ Open found eating slowly, avoiding after-dinner snacks and not eating within two hours of going to sleep are all strongly associated with lower obesity and weight (BMI), as well as smaller waistlines.
The findings were based on health insurance data for nearly 60,000 people with diabetes in Japan. During regular health check-ups, participants were quizzed about their lifestyle and were specifically asked about their eating speed, as well as whether they did any of the following three or more times a week: eat dinner within two hours of going to sleep, snack after dinner, and skip breakfast.
At the start of the study some 22,070 people regularly ate quickly, 33,455 ate at a normal speed, and 4,192 lingered over every mouthful.
Compared with those who tended to gobble up their food, those who ate at a normal speed were 29% less likely to be obese, rising to 42% for those who ate slowly. Reductions in waist size were also greater among slow and normal speed eaters.
Eating quickly has previously been linked to impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. Researchers suggested it might prevent weight loss because it takes longer for fast eaters to feel full. Meanwhile for slow eaters, feelings of fullness might happen more quickly, helping to curb calorie intake.
Snacking after dinner and eating within two hours of going to sleep, three or more times a week, were also strongly linked to changes in BMI. But skipping breakfast wasn’t.
“Changes in eating habits can affect obesity, BMI, and waist circumference,” the researchers concluded. “Interventions aimed at reducing eating speed may be effective in preventing obesity and lowering the associated health risks.”