Eating at a slow speed may help reduce hunger, U.S. researchers said Monday.
Previous research suggests that the ability to control energy intake may be affected by the speed at which we eat, and a high eating rate may impair the relationship between the sensory signals and processes that regulate how much we eat.
In order to learn more about the link between eating speed and energy intake, researchers at the Texas Christian University examined how eating speed affects calories consumed during a meal in both normal weight subjects as well as overweight or obese subjects.
In the new study, a group of normal-weight subjects and a group of overweight or obese subjects were asked to consume two meals in a controlled environment.
All subjects ate one meal slowly, instructed to imagine that they had no time constraints, take small bites, chew thoroughly, and pause and put the spoon down between bites, and a second meal quickly, instructed to imagine that they had a time constraint, take large bites, chew quickly, and not pause and put the spoon down.
At the conclusion of the study, the researchers found only normal-weight subjects had a statistically significant reduction in caloric consumption by eating slowly. They consumed 88 kcal less when they ate a meal slowly while the overweight or obese group consumed only 58 kcal less.
"Slowing the speed of eating led to a significant reduction in energy intake in the normal-weight group, but not in the overweight or obese group. A lack of statistical significance in the overweight and obese group may be partly due to the fact that they consumed less food during both eating conditions compared to the normal-weight subjects," lead author Meena Shah, professor at the Texas Christian University, said in a statement. "It is possible that the overweight and obese subjects felt more self- conscious, and thus ate less during the study."
Despite the differences in caloric consumption between the normal-weight and overweight and obese subjects, the study found some similarities. Both groups felt less hungry later on after the slow meal than after the fast meal. "In both groups, ratings of hunger were significantly lower at 60 minutes from when the meal began during the slow compared to the fast eating condition," added Shah. "These results indicate that greater hunger suppression among both groups could be expected from a meal that is consumed more slowly."
Also, both the normal weight and overweight or obese groups consumed more water during the slow meal. "Water consumption was higher during the slow compared to the fast eating condition by 27 percent in the normal weight and 33 percent in the overweight or obese group. The higher water intake during the slow eating condition probably caused stomach distention and may have affected food consumption," said Shah.
According to Shah, slowing the speed of eating may help suppress hunger levels and "may even enhance the enjoyment of a meal."
The findings were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.