The Negative Effects Of Eating Too Quickly

The Negative Effects Of Eating Too Quickly

Published on Monday, November 20, 2023 by Andy De Santis

The Connection Between Eating Speed and Health

Eating your food too quickly or while distracted is not great for your health. 

Many of us spend a great deal of time thinking about the what, when, and how much of our eating.

Few of us spend time thinking about how we eat.

Of particular relevance to human health is how quickly we eat, which is why I almost universally inquire about my clients’ perceived eating speeds.

I’m also inevitably curious as to whether or not they frequently eat while distracted because that is generally not optimal either.

After reading today’s post, you’ll understand why.

Let’s get to the good stuff.

Chewing Is Winning 

Did you know that scientists consider the act of chewing to be a stress-coping behavior?

Stress is a common feature in most lives – perhaps chewing more might help. 

Another common feature?

A lack of satiety (feeling of fullness) between meals.

Chewing helps here, too, with good evidence suggesting that chewing your food more thoroughly alters the way your gut releases hunger/fullness hormones with consequences to your appetite after a meal and food intake later in the day.

These types of positive outcomes are usually found when people increase their chews from 15 to closer to 45 per mouthful.

The Downsides Of Distracted Eating

Tranquility around a meal or snack time isn’t always possible but should be pursued to the utmost extent that it can.

It can be challenging to moderate your eating speed if you are frequently eating distracted, but even if you do manage it, you may still not be getting the most out of your meals.

A 2011 study in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition found that individuals eating a fixed-size lunch at a fixed rate of eating had very different effects depending on whether or not they were distracted by playing a computer game while eating.

The distracted eaters in this study reported being less full after the meal, ate more later on, and were less able to recall the totality of what they had consumed at lunch.

These are unfavorable outcomes, and you can easily imagine extending this example to doing work or other daily life tasks while eating.

Fast Eating & Your Blood Sugar Levels

Now, this is where it gets very interesting.

There is a growing body of observational and experimental evidence suggesting that one’s eating speed is related to relevant parameters of metabolic health, including short-term blood glucose response to meals and more long-term indications of blood glucose metabolism, like insulin resistance. 

A randomized cross-over trial published in Nutrients found that, in healthy women, eating the same meal over a longer period ( 10 mins vs 20 mins) led to a healthier post-meal blood sugar response ( lower peak blood sugar, less time with elevated levels). 

Further to those findings, Scientific Reports published a fascinating study looking at data from nearly 200,000 participants out of Japan. They found that fast eating was a predictor of diabetes risk even after controlling for confounding variables. 

Fast eaters also tended to be younger, which justifies spending more time on this messaging for future generations. 

Slower Eating, Better Gut Health

It bears repeating that chewing is an important part of food digestion, and your mouth is the first physical entry point for any meal or snack.

In addition to the mechanical and enzymatic breakdown of food, chewing promotes and primes downstream digestive processes throughout the GI tract.

Eating too quickly has been correlated with an increased risk of common health concerns like gastritis and acid reflux, and given that it can introduce excess gas into your digestive tract, it can contribute to bloating, flatulence, and potentially worsening of IBS-related symptoms. 

No matter how perfectly curated your meal may be, you won’t be getting the most out of it in the absence of slow, mindful eating.

Putting It All Together

Satiation between meals, metabolic health, and good gut health are things we all want.

Introducing more tranquility at meal and snack time will almost inevitably take us closer to those goals.

With that in mind, here are my three take-home messages:

  1. Don’t eat a meal in five minutes that you know should take fifteen.
  2. Chew thoroughly, and probably more thoroughly than you do now.
  3. Avoid distractions to the best of your ability, and focus on food when it is time to eat.

In my professional experience, there are very few people who consistently do all three.

Up for the challenge?

  1. Kubo, K. Y., Iinuma, M., & Chen, H. (2015). Mastication as a Stress-Coping Behavior. BioMed research international, 2015, 876409. 
  2. Miquel-Kergoat, S., Azais-Braesco, V., Burton-Freeman, B., & Hetherington, M. M. (2015). Effects of chewing on appetite, food intake and gut hormones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physiology & behavior, 151, 88–96. 
  3. Oldham-Cooper, R. E., Hardman, C. A., Nicoll, C. E., Rogers, P. J., & Brunstrom, J. M. (2011). Playing a computer game during lunch affects fullness, memory for lunch, and later snack intake. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 93(2), 308–313. 
  4. Saito, Y., Kajiyama, S., Nitta, A., Miyawaki, T., Matsumoto, S., Ozasa, N., Kajiyama, S., Hashimoto, Y., Fukui, M., & Imai, S. (2020). Eating Fast Has a Significant Impact on Glycemic Excursion in Healthy Women: Randomized Controlled Cross-Over Trial. Nutrients, 12(9), 2767. 
  5. Kudo, A., Asahi, K., Satoh, H., Iseki, K., Moriyama, T., Yamagata, K., Tsuruya, K., Fujimoto, S., Narita, I., Konta, T., Kondo, M., Shibagaki, Y., Kasahara, M., Watanabe, T., & Shimabukuro, M. (2019). Fast eating is a strong risk factor for new-onset diabetes among the Japanese general population. Scientific reports, 9(1), 8210. 

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