Researchers studying food behavior have discovered that eating too quickly may be an important contributor to becoming overweight.
Eating quickly previously has been linked to a higher body mass index, according to Prof. Hiroyasu Iso of Osaka University, Japan, and colleagues in an article on the British Medical Journal website.
The team investigated these factors among 3,287 Japanese men and women aged 30 to 69 years. About 33 percent of the men and 22 percent of the women were overweight (body mass index of 25 or higher). The participants were given questionnaires to record their dietary habits, including “eating until full” and speed of eating.
Over half of women (58 percent) and men (51 percent) said that they ate until full. In the study, this refers to eating a “large quantity of food in one meal.” The participants’ self-reported speed of eating was backed up by reports from a friend. Just under half of men (46 percent) and just over a third (36 percent) of women reported eating quickly. For both sexes, eating until full and eating quickly were positively associated with weight, body mass index and total energy intake.
The researchers estimate that the combination of eating quickly and eating until full more than triples the risk of being overweight. This calculation took into account age, alcohol intake, smoking, occupation and regular exercise.
They conclude: “The combination of the two eating behaviors has a substantial and additive effect on being overweight. Obesity or being overweight is an important risk factor for lifestyle related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.”
The experts point out that previous studies show “essentially the same trends,” that is, associations between the speed of eating and body mass index, weight gain and total energy intake. But they call for more research to verify a causal link.
Commenting on the study in an editorial, Dr Elizabeth Denney-Wilson of the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Karen Campbell from Deakin University in Australia say that this study adds to the evidence that eating behaviors are central to promoting a positive energy balance (taking in more energy than is used) and may contribute to the current epidemic of obesity.