The results of a new study — recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2017, held in Anaheim, CA — suggest that gobbling down your food may seriously harm your cardiometabolic health.
Dr. Takayuki Yamaji — a cardiologist at Hiroshima University in Japan — is the lead author of the study, which examined more than 1,000 participants over a period of 5 years.
The study focused on the relationship between eating speed and the incidence of metabolic syndrome, which is the collective name given to five risk factors for serious cardiometabolic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
More and more people are developing the syndrome due to increases in overall obesity rates, warn the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Currently, it is estimated that over a third (34 percent) of the adult population of the United States have metabolic syndrome.
“In the future,” the NIH caution, “metabolic syndrome may overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.”
Worldwide, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome can be anywhere between 10 percent and 84 percent of the population, depending on where we focus.
Studying eating habits in Japanese adults
Dr. Yamaji and his colleagues examined 1,083 participants, 642 of whom were male. On average, participants were a little over 51 years old.
These people had no signs of metabolic syndrome at the beginning of the study in 2008, and the researchers followed them over a period of 5 years.
Using a self-administered questionnaire, the participants gave information on their lifestyle, eating habits, physical activity, and medical history.
If the participants had gained at least 10 kilograms since the age of 20, this qualified as “weight gain” for the purposes of the study.
Participants were also divided into three groups, according to their eating speed: slow eaters, normal eaters, and fast eaters.
Fast eating linked with metabolic syndrome
Over the 5-year follow-up period, 84 people developed metabolic syndrome. Overall, higher eating speed correlated with greater weight gain, higher blood sugar, higher levels of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol, and a larger waistline.
Fast eaters were almost twice as likely to develop metabolic syndrome compared with their normal eating counterparts.
More specifically, fast eaters had an 11.6 percent higher chance of developing the risk factors, compared with a 6.5 percent chance in normal eaters. Meanwhile, slow eaters had only a 2.3 percent chance of developing metabolic syndrome.
The study authors conclude, “Eating speed was associated with obesity and future prevalence of metabolic syndrome. Eating slowly may therefore […] be a crucial lifestyle factor for preventing metabolic syndrome among the Japanese.”
Dr. Yamaji comments on the findings, saying, “Eating more slowly may be a crucial lifestyle change to help prevent metabolic syndrome When people eat fast they tend not to feel full and are more likely to overeat.”