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Many people eat their food fast and carelessly.

However, eating slowly may be a much smarter approach.

In fact, studies show that slower eating can help you feel more full and lose weight.

This article explores the benefits of eating more slowly, for both weight loss and overall health.

Photo credit: Buddhaimonia
People who describe themselves as fast eaters tend to be heavier than those who say they eat more slowly. Photo credit: Buddhaimonia

Eating Too Fast Can Cause Weight Gain

People who describe themselves as fast eaters tend to be heavier than those who say they eat more slowly (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

In fact, fast eaters are up to 115 percent more likely to be obese, compared to slower eaters (3).

They also tend to gain weight over time, which may be partially due to eating too fast.

In one study, researchers surveyed more than 4,000 middle-aged men and women, asking them how fast they ate their food (5).

Those who said they ate “very fast” tended to be heavier and had gained the most body weight since age 20.

Another study looked at the weight changes of 529 men over an 8-year period. Those who reported being “fast” eaters gained more than twice as much as self-described “slow” or “medium” eaters (6).

Bottom Line: Studies show that people who eat quickly tend to be heavier and gain more weight over time, compared to slower eaters.

Eating Slowly Helps You Eat Less

Your appetite and calorie intake is largely controlled by hormones.

Normally after eating, your gut suppresses a hormone called ghrelin, which controls hunger. It also releases the anti-hunger hormones cholecystokinin (CCK), peptide YY(PYY) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) (7).

These hormones relay a message to the brain, letting it know that you’ve eaten and that nutrients are being absorbed.

This reduces appetite, makes you feel full and helps you stop eating.

Interestingly, this process takes about 20 minutes, so slowing down gives your brain the time it needs to receive these signals.

Eating Slowly Can Increase Satiety Hormones

Eating too quickly often leads to overeating, as your brain doesn’t have the time it needs to receive the fullness signals.

Additionally, eating slowly has been shown to decrease the amount of food consumed at a meal (8, 9, 10).

This is partially due to an increase in the level of anti-hunger hormones that occurs when meals aren’t rushed.

In one study, 17 healthy people of normal weight were fed 300 ml (10 oz) of ice cream on two different occasions (8).

During one session, each person consumed the ice cream within 5 minutes. At the other session, they ate it slowly over the course of 30 minutes.

Their satiety hormone levels increased significantly more after eating the ice cream slowly and they reported feeling more full after eating.

In a follow-up study, this time in overweight and obese diabetics, slowing down did not increase satiety hormones. However, it significantly increased fullness and satisfaction ratings (11).

Other research has shown that obese young people aged 9–17 experience higher levels of satiety hormones when a meal is consumed slowly (12, 13).

Eating Slowly Can Decrease Calorie Intake

In one study, normal-weight and overweight people were observed eating lunch at different paces.

Both groups consumed fewer calories at the slow-paced meal than at the fast-paced meal, although the difference was greater in the normal-weight group (10).

All participants also felt more full for longer after eating more slowly, reporting less hunger 60 minutes after the slow-paced meal than after the faster meal.

This spontaneous reduction in calorie intake should lead to weight loss over time.

Bottom Line: For most people, eating slowly increases the gut hormones responsible for satiety. Eating slowly can also reduce calorie intake and help you feel more full.

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