Chew well and do not eat quickly. Adults repeat it to children who are too greedy, but even adults often do not follow these simple rules, between too fast lunch breaks and sandwiches devoured in seconds. These are bad habits that could represent a threat to individual well being. This is suggested by new research conducted by Hiroshima University in Japan, presented at the scientific conference of the American Heart Association. Eating too quickly was associated with an increase in the likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome, a set of risk factors for cardiovascular health. We discuss this topic with Professor Daniela Lucini, Head of the Humanitas Section of Exercise Medicine.
The study was attended by 642 men and 441 women with an average age of just over fifty-one years who did not have metabolic syndrome. These were divided into three groups according to the speed with which they tended to eat: slowly, normally or quickly. After five years, this correlation emerged between fast eating and the highest probability of having developed metabolic syndrome (11.6% of them compared to 6.5% between the intermediate speed group and 2.3% among the slowest). In addition, the higher speed was also associated with higher weight gain, higher fasting blood glucose values and a wider waist.
Fasting glycaemia is one of the markers of metabolic syndrome. In addition, there are also abdominal obesity (measured by waist circumference), increased blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides and low “good” HDL cholesterol values. Three of them are enough to configure this syndrome, which in turn increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
The tendency to eat quickly has been the subject of several studies. Among these, a study published in 2008 in the British Medical Journal, also conducted in Japan on more than three thousand adults, concluded that those who ate quickly, until they were full, were more likely to be overweight than those who took their time during meals. Why is biting and chewing quickly not a healthy habit? “First of all, the digestion process is altered because whoever chews badly ingests food that is not well processed and aggravates stomach work. The digestion – recalls Professor Lucini – begins with chewing thanks to the action of enzymes contained in saliva”.
In addition – she goes on – there is a tendency to swallow air, a factor that can cause annoyance and gastrointestinal disorders; finally, there is a tendency to eat more because chewing takes less time. Whoever chews for a longer time, takes longer and has the feeling of having eaten more, but in truth it’s just because required more energy and thus a feeling of satiety”.
“This is what happens to infants before weaning. Breastfeeding a newborn baby initially has its own difficulties to extract the milk through sucking and thus the baby eats properly, unlike the infant fed with formula milk from a bottle, which can cause a lot of ingestion. This habit can also be maintained through growth phases and can explain the differences in weight between those who have been naturally breastfed and those who have not, as indicated by various studies. The former tend not to accumulate pounds excessively”.
The right time to eat
For adults, a crucial moment is the lunch break at work when the temptation to eat quickly can arise as well as doing so in front of the PC: “This too is a habit to avoid since lunch break is an opportunity to devote time for oneself, to take off from work, rest and recover energy even while eating. However, it should not be seen as an opportunity to simply swallow something on the go and introduce calories. Eating in front of the PC, maybe while checking the mail or organizing the work for the afternoon, could lead to eating more quickly because it pushes people to go back to their activities”.
How to devote the right time? “Maybe something can be consumed with a fork and knife to make gestures that can accompany a meal to be consumed in a reasonable time. Moreover, without forgetting the supply of water. Drinking is very important to help digestion. The opportunity to drink during a meal is considered by some people to stimulate an increase in appetite. On the contrary, there are those who say that not drinking during the meal makes it more difficult to eat and thus they eat less. Before, during or after a meal, it is always important to have a drink,” says the professor.
One last tip: It is recommended to arrive at lunch break or an evening meal not entirely on an empty stomach: People who do not break hunger could eat a meal in a more voracious way. To avoid this, breakfast and a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack are essential, always paying attention to what you eat,” concludes the specialist.