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Obesity and Weight Management

Can I lose weight by eating slower?

08/04/2004

Question:

I have read many time that it takes your stomach twenty minutes to tell your brain that you have had enought to eat. Why, I don`t know, fortunately it doesn`t take my finger twenty minutes to tell my brain that it is burning. I have also read many times that by eating slower you will eat less and therefore consume less calories. But I have been unable to find any research to back up either of these two claims. Can you point me to any research or are these claims pure fiction? Thanks

Answer:

The short answer is maybe. It takes 20-30 minutes for the first few bites of food you chew to physically move from the mouth to the stomach and on into the intestines. (Any research on this is almost in the ancient history category. The description of digestion is in most basic physiology, biology, or beginning nutrition books.*) During this physical movement, stomach and intestinal digestive enzymes are breaking down the food so that it can be absorbed through the intestinal wall and into the blood stream. It's only after the nutrients enter your blood that the brain can get the signal that you are no longer hungry.

So, - if you eat slower you will eat less food in that first 20-30 minutes and may end up eating fewer calories overall, - if you listen to your body and aren't eating for emotional and social reasons. You can improve your chances of eating less by choosing lower calorie foods during this initial period - broth-based soups, fruits, and vegetables (perhaps the salad as the first course or veggies and low calorie dip rather than chips and salsa or cheese and crackers). If you eat slower but longer (past the point of no longer feeling hunger), as you might do in a social situation, you may not find that eating slower produces any weight loss because your total calorie consumption isn't reduced.

*A helpful description of digestion can be found in Contemporary Nutrition: Issues and Insights, Gordon M. Wardlaw, Publisher: McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-109368-0

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Response by:

Sharron   Coplin, MS, RD, LD Sharron Coplin, MS, RD, LD
Former Lecturer
Food & Nutrition
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University