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How Do I Eat Less? Print E-mail
Written by Amanda Wattson, MD   
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Your mother's advice to slow down at meal time may have been wise after all: a new study suggests that shoveling down your food blocks the body's natural appetite-control process.
"Most of us have heard that eating fast can lead to food overconsumption and obesity, and in fact some...studies have supported this notion," Dr. Alexander Kokkinos, the lead researcher on the study, said in a written statement.

What has been missing, however, is biological evidence that a leisurely meal is better for appetite control, according to Kokkinos and his colleagues at Athens University Medical School in Greece and the Imperial College London in the UK.

To study the question, the researchers had 17 healthy men eat a generous portion of ice cream under two different conditions: in one, they ate the treat in two servings over 5 minutes; in the other, they ate it in small servings over 30 minutes.

Although the groups' feelings of fullness and hunger did not seem to differ, the researchers found that when the men ate slowly, they showed higher blood levels of two hormones -- peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) -- for roughly three hours after the meal.

Both PYY and GLP-1 are released from the digestive tract as a "fullness" signal to the brain, curbing appetite and calorie intake.

The findings, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, give more weight to the conventional wisdom that people should savor their food.

Some previous research has found that when people take the time to chew their food thoroughly and enjoy a meal, they tend to eat fewer calories than when they have that same meal at an eat-and-run pace.

The reasons for that have been unclear, however.

"Our study provides a possible explanation for the relationship between speed eating and overeating by showing that the rate at which someone eats may impact the release of gut hormones that signal the brain to stop eating," Kokkinos said.

The findings are particularly relevant in a time when many people are relying on fast food and regularly eating on the run, according to Kokkinos. The study suggests that slowing down at meal time could aid appetite control, and ultimately weight control.

They are a possible scientific explanation for "the warning we were given as children that 'wolfing down your food will make you fat,'" Kokkinos said.

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