People with obesity tend to chew their food less than lean people do, even when they eat the same thing and take bites of the same size, according to a study in the american journal of clinical nutrition. When the research team asked everyone to chew each bite 40 times, the lean and obese people in the study both ate less. When they chewed their food a little more than usual, their levels of gut hormones related to hunger and satiety also improved. “improving chewing activity could become a useful tool for combating obesity,” the study authors concluded.
Extra chewing also slows the pace of eating, which may be another reason why it’s so healthy. Meena shah, a professor of nutrition at texas christian university, has looked into the effects of eating speed on meal size. She found that people who eat slowly tend to eat less. Slow eating may help people eat more mindfully and tune into their own feelings of fullness, she says.
It may also help with weight maintenance. Another research team tracked a group of people for eight years, and found those who ate slowly gained less weight during the study period than fast eaters. Those results held regardless of an person’s bmi, drinking habits or exercise frequency. Fast eating, on the other hand, has been linked to a 35% increase in a person’s risk for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health problems that includes high blood pressure and blood sugar, poor cholesterol numbers and excess abdominal fat.
It’s tough to say if a person’s pace of eating and rate of chewing are solely responsible for these body weight benefits, and scientists have yet to discover the ideal number of chews per bite. But taking some extra time to chew your food—especially if you’re the type who always finishes dinner first—appears to be a good idea.