While exercise has been shown to reduce obesity and other health conditions, including helping prevent Syndrome X, a metabolic illness largely characterized by resistance to insulin, new research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in California suggests that people who eat slowly are less likely than speed-eaters to become obese or to develop metabolic syndrome. Syndrome X, or metabolic syndrome, has been proven to be a lead-in to developing diabetes and heart disease, and may affect an estimated 20-40% of North Americans.
According to the author, eating more slowly may be a crucial lifestyle change to help prevent metabolic syndrome. If you eat quickly, you tend to overeat because you tend not to feel full. Eating quickly also causes bigger glucose fluctuation, which can lead to insulin resistance.
Researchers looked at 642 men and 441 women with an average age of 51.2 years, none of whom had metabolic syndrome in 2008. The participants were then divided into three groups depending on what they said their usual eating speed was: slow, normal or fast.
Coming back to the group after 5 years, the researchers found that 11.6% of fast eaters had developed metabolic syndrome, compared with 6.5% of the normal eaters, and 2.3% of the slower eaters.
Fast eaters were also associated with gaining more weight, higher blood glucose levels, and a larger waistline. Part of the reason seems to be that the stomach doesn’t have time to tell the body that it’s filling up, so we end up eating more than we need to.
One suggestion to prevent metabolic syndrome and associated illnesses is taking time to chew your food. Taking time to chew has many added benefits including:
• Absorbing more nutrients from your food. Chewing breaks your food down from large particles into smaller particles that are more easily digested. This also makes it easier for your intestines to absorb nutrients from the food particles as they pass through.
• Your food gets more exposure to saliva. Saliva contains digestive enzymes, so the longer you chew, the more time these enzymes have to start breaking down your food, making digestion easier on your stomach and small intestine. One of these enzymes is lingual lipase, an enzyme that helps break down fats, for example. Saliva also helps to lubricate your food so it’s easier on your esophagus.
• Aids in digestion. The chewing process predigests your food into small pieces and partially liquefies it, making it easier to digest.
• Enjoying and actually tasting your food. If you rush through your meal with hardly any chewing, you’re also not really tasting or enjoying the food. When you take the time to properly chew your food, it forces you to slow down, savor each morsel, and really enjoy all the flavors your food has to offer.
As well as taking more time to chew, the American Heart Association recommends eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, as well as exercising more, as ways to reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
Photo from here, with thanks.