Does eating fast increase the risk of diabetes?

Eating fast is known to cause digestive problems, obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure as well as it may increase the risk of diabetes. A recent study from Lithuania suggest that fast eating doubles the risk of developing diabetes. How can our eating speed affect our health? Does eating fast make us a candidate for diabetes? What are the scientific facts?

What are the results of the research?

This research conducted in Lithuania and compared newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients (n=234) with control group, free from the disease (n=468). The participants rated their eating speed as “slower, the same, faster”, by comparing their speed to others. After adjusting other risk factors that might increase the risk of diabetes such as a family history of diabetes, age, gender, body mass index, physical activity, tobacco use, waist circumference; the study analyzed how eating fast alone affects the risk of diabetes. The researchers found a more than two-fold increase in the risk of diabetes associated with faster eating habits (odds ratio=2,52, 95% confidence interval 1,56-4,06).

What are the factors that affect eating speed?

Skipping main meals or snacks are very important factors that affect eating speed. When we do not consume food for a long time and we are extremely hungry, we tend to eat fast and excessively when it is time for eating. In addition, watching TV or using tablets, computers, and smartphones may distract our attention and we do not realize that we are eating fast and how much we are eating.

How does our eating speed affect the health?

It is reported that after food intake, it can take 15-20 minutes for the full range of satiety signals to reach our brain. Thus, when the satiety signals do not reach the brain, you may eat more than you need. There are many researches ascertaining that eating fast may result in increased body weight and obesity in the long term. Obesity is a major risk for diabetes4. Since 9 out of every 10 diabetic patients are obese, the risk of obesity with eating fast may increase the insulin resistance, high blood pressure and the risk of diabetes. Eating fast behavior can affect not only food consumption but also digestive system functions. This behavior may also cause swallowing without sufficient chewing, eating excessive food, indigestion, and reflux problems.

What are the scientific facts?

The risk of having chronic diseases such as diabetes is closely related to lifestyle factors such as nutrition and physical activity as well as it is related to genetic factors. Eating fast behavior can cause excessive eating, thus, lead to obesity, which increases the insulin resistance and the risk of diabetes in the long term. Hence, eating fast behavior alone should not be associated primarily with diabetes.

According to the Diet, Nutrition and Chronic Disease report of World Health Organization and Food and Agricultural Organization, it is very important to eat sufficiently, keep a balanced diet, and ensure a variety of foods and active life with regular exercise for preventing the chronic diseases and protecting the health. Hence, changing eating fast behavior may be a prominent step to prevent obesity, related to many chronic diseases risk and to control food consumption.

Here are some tips to regulate your eating speed; not waiting to be extremely hungry for main meals, not eating when watching TV or using smartphone or tablet, taking a break after a starter such as soup, leaving your spoon and fork on the table after each bite, using knife and chewing sufficiently.

1. Radzeviciene L. et al., Eating fast increases diabetes risk, International Congress of Endocrinology and European Congress of Endocrinology, 2012
2. Understanding satiety: feeling full after a meal
3. Harvard Medical School, Why eating slowly may help you feel full faster,
4. Sinn D.H. et al., The Speed of Eating and Functional Dyspepsia in Young Women, Gut and Liver. Vol. 4, June 2010
5. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases, Report of the joint WHO/FAO expert consultation WHO Technical Report Series, No. 916


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