Childhood obesity is a substantial issue in the United States, threatening the health of today’s youth and impacting the well-being of an entire generation. For the first time in more than 200 years, children are expected to live shorter lives than those of their parents, and that is in no small way linked to childhood obesity.
How much food a child eats factors into the number of calories consumed and the amount of weight gained or lost; and a recent study suggests that slowing down may be essential to controlling a child’s calorie consumption.
Researchers that the University of California – San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, in partnership with the Laboratory of Research in Experimental Medicine in the School of Medicine at the National University of Mexico, conducted a study of the eating habits of 54 children 6 to 17 years of age, and what they found could simplify weight loss in children and beyond.
The children were divided into two groups, one of which ate as they normally would, while the other group was instructed to take a bite of food every 30 seconds, thereby slowing their eating. The slower eaters were equipped with 30 second hourglass timers to track when to eat, but had no knowledge that they were part of a study regarding weight; they were told that they were part of a study called “Good Manners for a Healthy Future.”
After six months of observation, the slower eaters were found to have lost between 2 and 5.7 percent of their weight, while the faster eaters gained 4.4 to 5.8 percent.
After one year of observation, the results became more significant. The slower chewing group decreased their weight 3.4 to 4.8 percent, while the faster eaters increased their weight by 6.5 to 8.2 percent.
“To lose weight, you need to stop eating. But its not that simple for most people,” said study co-author Marcos Intaglietta, “So we decided to investigate how effective eating slowly would be.”
The slow eating method has proved so effective, that the Mexican states of Michoacan, Veracruz, and Yucatan have invited the method into their schools.
No medications are required to implement the slower heating method, nor does one’s diet have to change. By slowing down and chewing food more thoroughly, food is broken down more, which leads to more efficient processing of nutrients and better digestion. Slowly chewing also enables the stomach to have time to register when it is actually full and communicate it to the brain. By slowly chewing and enabling the stomach and brain to properly communicate, a smaller amount of food is needed in order to feel sated, leading the consumer to eat fewer calories than if they had mindlessly eaten at a faster pace.
“You can adopt this slow eating approach for yourself and keep it up for the rest of your life,” said Geert Schmid-Schonbein, a study co-author and bioengineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering. “You can teach this approach to your children and they can teach it to their children in turn.”
By simply slowing down and slowly chewing food, a child may not only prevent obesity, but may lose weight, according to the study; and with childhood obesity linked to such significant health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, slowing down and nurturing the habit of slowly chewing, could mean better health for children now and in the future.