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A nationwide survey of the population, done with the intention of exploring the association between speed of eating and degree of obesity, has found that eating faster is related to a higher body mass index

Eating Faster is related to a Higher Body Mass Index

The study states that the speed of gulping down one’s food has a direct impact on the amount of calories ingested. Though it may not necessarily lead to weight gain, it definitely determines the amount of food ingested.

The study, which was published in the August issue of the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association”, was done on the basis of a mailed survey of 2,500 randomly selected women in New Zealand. The women, belonging to the age group of 40 to 50 years were selected from the nationwide electoral rolls to examine the relationship between self-reported speed of eating and body mass index (BMI), a measurement of a person's weight relative to her height.

The women were asked about their speed of eating, their living and health conditions, menopause status, physical activity, height, and weight. After making adjustments for factors like age, smoking status, menopause status, thyroid condition, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and physical activity, the researchers found that as the women went up on the speed scale of eating, their BMI rose. For every step up on the scale, the BMI increased by around 2.8 percent. For an average woman in the U.S., it amounts to nearly six pounds.

Reduction in the Speed of Eating may lead to a Decrease in BMI

An interesting finding in the above mentioned study was that the women who were the slowest eaters had the lowest BMI. Amongst the participants of the study, almost 50 percent women described themselves as average in their speed of eating. While 32 percent described themselves as fast eaters, around 15 percent fell in the category of slow eaters.

According to Dr. Caroline Horwarth, the senior author of the study and a professor at the University of Otego, the strength of association between the speed of eating and corresponding BMI surprised the researchers. Although they had expected some relationship between the two based on the results of previous studies, they had not expected the relationship to be so profound.

An earlier study done in Japan had also shown that fast eaters have higher BMIs. Similarly, another recent study done in China has shown that chewing the food slowly can lead to lesser calorie consumption which can ultimately lead to a loss in weight.

Although there have been several shortcomings in the present study, like the speed at which different participants ate was based entirely on their own assessment, as the study was done on the basis of a mailed questionnaire; the implications of the study are tremendous. The study leads us to believe that women consume more calories because of eating fast, leading to a higher BMI. This could mean that one can reduce her BMI by eating slow. How effective this would be in losing weight is a speculation as eating habits are ingrained in an individual and it is very difficult to change them. But as they say, where there is a will, there is a way.

  • “Speedy eaters likely to be heavier”, Kerry Grens, Reuters, published on August 31, 2011, accessed on September 11, 2011
  • “Faster Self-Reported Speed of Eating Is Related to Higher Body Mass Index in a Nationwide Survey of Middle-Aged Women”, Sook Ling Leong, Caroline Horwarth, et al, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, published in August 2011, accessed on September 11, 2011
  • Photo courtesy of Sean Dreilinger on Flickr: