As people look for fresh strategies to cut
back on calories and shed kilos, a new study suggests that simply eating
more slowly can significantly reduce how much people eat in a single
to convert calories to kilojoules
The study involved a small group of both normal-weight and obese
or overweight participants. All were given an opportunity to eat a meal
under relaxed, slow-speed conditions, and then in a time-constrained,
Although all participants consumed less when eating slowly and all said they
felt less hungry after eating a slow meal compared to a fast meal, only people
who were considered normal weight actually reduced their calorie intake
significantly when eating more slowly.
"One possible reason [for the calorie drop seen] may be that slower
eating allows people to better sense their feelings
of hunger and fullness," said study author Meena Shah, a professor in
the department of kinesiology at Texas Christian University, in Fort Worth.
The potential connection
Slow eating also seemed to increase water
intake and stomach
swelling, Shah said, while also affecting the biological process that
determines how much food people consume.
The study was published online in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition
Although just less than 15% of Americans were obese in the early 1970s, that
figure increased to nearly 36% by 2010, the researchers said.
To explore a potential connection between slow eating and reduced caloric
intake, the team focused on 35 normal-weight men and women and 35 overweight or
obese men and women.
During a two-day study period, all were asked to consume the exact same
meals under two conditions. The "slow" meal was spread over an
average of 22 minutes per meal, involving small bites and deliberate chewing
without concern for time. The "fast" meal involved large bites and
quick chewing, under the notion that time was of the essence. The average
fast-meal time was about nine minutes.
A significant decrease
Normal-weight participants were found to consume 88 fewer calories when
eating slowly, a decrease deemed "significant". By contrast, the
obese/overweight group saw only a 58-calorie reduction during the slow-eating
session, which was not considered significant.
The researchers said the obese/overweight group actually consumed less food
overall during both the slow- and fast-eating sessions than the normal-weight
group. That finding might explain the smaller calorie drop during the first
group's slow-eating trial, they said.
Some self-consciousness among the participants might also have affected eating
patterns, leading them to consume food in a manner that differed from a
private, real-world setting. "There is always the possibility that people
will eat differently when they are being observed," Shah said.
Both groups ate less when eating slowly, however, and a notable spike in
water intake during the slow-eating test might be a major reason why. When
eating slowly, water intake increased by 27% among the normal-weight group, and
by 33% among the overweight/obese group.
Are results meaningful and repeatable?
Susan Roberts, a senior scientist with the US Department of Agriculture,
suggested that the study suffers from a number of analytic flaws.
"First of all, slow eating reduces [calorie] intake by 10% in the normal-weight
folk and 8% in the obese ones," said Roberts, who works at the nutrition
research centre at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. "The 10% is [deemed]
statistically significant, whereas the 8% is not. However, there is no significant
difference between 8% and 10%, meaning ... there is no difference in the effect
of eating speed on [calorie] intake according to whether you are obese or
"More importantly," she added, "the obese individuals in the
study substantially under-ate during the measurements, which calls into
question whether the results are meaningful and repeatable."
Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of
Texas South-western Medical Centre at Dallas, said the study did not control
for a number of factors that could have influenced the findings. That makes it
impossible to conclude that there is any direct cause and effect between slower
eating and lower food consumption, she said.
"However, there are other theories and camps of research that support
the theory that we consume less when we eat more slowly," said Sandon, a
registered dietitian. "Taking time to enjoy and be more mindful of the
food we are eating is associated with eating less."
"[But] it may be a better strategy for preventing
weight gain, as opposed to treating overweight and obesity," Sandon
eating slowly helps you eat less