It is fairly intuitive that eating things that are bad for you is bad for you and eatings that are good for you is good for you. However, what can be said about the speed at which we eat food?
A recent study has revealed that eating food too fast can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It also lists the 5 major risk factors tied to metabolic syndrome:
- Elevated triglycerides (dyslipidaemia)
- Elevated blood sugar
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Low HDL cholesterol
- A large waistline
It is estimated that over 84% of the adult population may suffer from metabolic syndrome. In the United States, 34% of all adults suffer from at least 3 of these symptoms. As a killer risk factor, metabolic syndrome may out do even smoking when it comes to heart disease.
Takayuki Jamaji is a cardiologist from Hiroshima University in Japan and was the lead author of the aforementioned study that looked at over 1,100 healthy individuals. This is what he has to say:
“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.”
Why Does Chewing Your Food Work?
Because digestion starts long before the food hits the stomach. It, in fact, starts with the eyes and nose – this is where the brain first gets the signal that food is coming and preps the rest of the body to anticipate it. After that, the mouth takes over – chewing more slowly breaks down food faster and saliva contains enzymes that helps break down food. Digestion is a demanding process and chewing properly makes it easier for your intestines to absorb nutrition.
This is actually a well studied and documented fact. For example, everyone reading this is properly familiar with the beneficial nutritional properties of almonds. Scientists found that participants who ate almonds quickly and chewed less digested less of the almonds and that chunks of the almonds passed right through. For those who chewed more (40 times versus 10 times per bite of almonds) absorbed most of the almonds and therefore, the nutrition.
With this in mind, it can be helpful to count the total number of bites you make while eating and working to “improve your score”. Besides the nutritional benefits, chewing slowly can help you enjoy the food better – consider it a meditative exercise as well as a nutritional one.
Harvard Health says:
“Stretch receptors in the stomach are activated as it fills with food or water; these signal the brain directly through the vagus nerve that connects gut and brainstem. Hormonal signals are released as partially digested food enters the small intestine.
One example is cholecystokinin (CCK), released by the intestines in response to food consumed during a meal. Another hormone, leptin, produced by fat cells, is an adiposity signal that communicates with the brain about long-range needs and satiety, based on the body’s energy stores. Research suggests that leptin amplifies the CCK signals, to enhance the feeling of fullness.
Other research suggests that leptin also interacts with the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain to produce a feeling of pleasure after eating. The theory is that, by eating too quickly, people may not give this intricate hormonal cross-talk system enough time to work.”
If that’s not enough, for those readers looking to lose weight, it has been shown that increasing how much you chew can reduce the amount you eat by up to 15%. When taken over time, this is a significant dent. An increase of 1kg a year might not seem like a large number until you’re there 15 years later.
As we head into this festive season, consider the pace you’re shovelling down that apple pie and pause for a moment to think about the impact of that.