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Health Answers

Why does eating quickly seem to lead to weight gain?

By Bina Venkataraman
November 23, 2009

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Q. Why does eating quickly seem to lead to weight gain, and what can you do to help yourself slow down?

A. It is commonly believed that eating too quickly causes the calories - and pounds - to pile up. And recent research shows why this could be true.

So-called gut hormones, or peptides, released in the gastrointestinal tract send a signal to the brain that we are full - prompting us to stop eating. A study accepted for publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that people who ate ice cream quickly had lower levels of those gut hormones and did not feel full as soon as those who ate more slowly.

“I don’t believe we’ve found a magic bullet, ’’ said Alexander Kokkinos, a medical researcher at Laiko General Hospital in Greece and the lead author of the study.

But the research does suggest a physiological explanation for the belief that eating too fast makes you gain weight.

Other research indicates that eating quickly makes people especially prone to weight gain when it is combined with other behaviors such as eating until feeling fully satisfied. A study done in Japan published in the British Medical Journal this year showed that of more than 3,000 people surveyed, those who ate quickly and until they felt full were three times more likely to be overweight than slower eaters who stopped eating before they felt full.

Combined, the studies suggest that eating too quickly delays the feeling of fullness, but also that people should stop eating before they feel completely full if they wish to lose weight.

Health specialists suggest some simple tactics for fast eaters who want to slow down their pace. Try putting your fork down in between bites, chewing slowly and deliberately, and stopping when you feel slightly less than completely full.

If you really want to challenge yourself, you might eat with your less dominant hand, (your left hand if you are right-handed) or use chopsticks, if you are not accustomed to handling them deftly.

E-mail health questions to globeanswers@gmail.com

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