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Correlation Between Speed of Eating and Incidence of Metabolic Syndrome

In recent years, there has been a worldwide focus on metabolic syndrome to identify specific factors that may contribute to the development of diabetes and obesity. An interesting factor that researchers are exploring is eating habits, particularly, the speed of eating. Therefore, a study was performed to understand the relationship between eating speed and incidence of metabolic syndrome in middle-aged and elderly Japanese people.

It is believed that the rate of eating may have an association with the incidence of metabolic syndrome. This may be due to lack of satiety, rapid ingestion causing overeating because the stomach is unable to sense fullness with insufficient time. Furthermore, rapid eating may lead to insulin resistance, ultimately causing metabolic syndrome.

In this study, 8,941 residents from Soka City in Saitama Prefrecture were followed for three years. Participants were aged 40 to 75 years without a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, were given a baseline survey in 2008 and were followed until 2011. The goal was to determine the relationship between self-reported eating speed and the incidence of metabolic syndrome.

The study determined there were 647 subjects diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, where the incidence rate of 2.3% was accounted for in the slower eating group, and 3.1% in the faster eating group. In the age- and sex-adjusted analysis, researchers found metabolic syndrome to be a significant correlation to speed of eating (HR= 1.4; 95% CI, 1.18-1.67). After a complete analysis, researchers confirmed that the incidence of metabolic syndrome was greater in the faster-eating group (HR= 1.3; 95% CI, 1.05-1.6). A significant relationship was identified between the faster-eating group, waist circumference, and HDL cholesterol (HR= 1.35 for waist circumference; 1.37 for HDL cholesterol).

The authors conclude that the study was limited due to the fact eating speed was self-reported and therefore subjective. In addition, investigators did not account for energy intake, which may be a major factor in determining the causative role of metabolic syndrome. However, the strength of the study was that it involved a three-year cohort study displaying significant correlation between speed of eating and incidence of metabolic syndrome. Since this relationship was significant even after adjusting for other lifestyle factors, researchers believe that eating slowly may be beneficial for the prevention of metabolic syndrome among the Japanese. They have even built a special electronic fork to help slow down your eating at HAPIfork.com.

Practice Pearls:

  • Rapid eating is related to the incidence of metabolic syndrome since association is significant even after adjusting for other lifestyle factors.
  • Eating slowly may be an important lifestyle factor for the prevention of metabolic syndrome among the Japanese.
  • Future studies addressing subjective self-reporting methods and parameters for energy intake may be useful to validate such results.

Zhu, Bing, et al. “Association Between Eating Speed and Metabolic Syndrome in a Three-Year Population-Based Cohort Study.” Journal of Epidemiology 25.4 (2015): 332.