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Eating slowly is effective in preventing weight gain in children

Posted:  Thursday, December 10, 2015

A break between bites is all it takes to avoid those extra pounds! A team of international researchers has gathered sufficient evidence to suggest that waiting 30 seconds in between bites of food may prevent excessive weight gain in children as it allows the satiety reflex to kick in.

The study has made its way into the journal Pediatric Obesity. As part of the study, the researchers randomised 54 children aged 6–17 years into 2 groups: compliant group (those who ate slowly as instructed) and non-compliant group (those who did not eat slowly). Each of these groups was compared to a control group comprising children of similar demographics.

The researchers instructed the children to chew each bite for 30 seconds before having the next bite. The children were given small hourglasses that emptied in 30 seconds to make sure that they waited the proper amount of time between bites. The children were instructed to take a bite, turn over the hourglass and take the next bite only after the hourglass went empty. The children were also instructed to drink a glass of water before each meal and avoid snacks in between meals.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the weight of the compliant group reduced by 2–5.7% after 6 months and by 3.4–4.8% after a year. Conversely, the weight of the children in the non-compliant group rose by 4.4–5.8% after 6 months and by 8.3–12.6% at the end of 1 year. The weight of the control group children also increased by 6.5–8.2% after a year.

It is known that the “satiety reflex”, wherein the stomach sends out signals to the brain that it is no longer hungry, takes nearly 15 minutes to take effect. This study shows that chewing slowly allows the children to realize they are no longer hungry before they overeat, thus preventing excessive weight gain.

"You can adopt this slow eating approach for yourself and keep it up for the rest of your life. You can teach this approach to your children and they can teach it to their children in turn," said Geert Schmid-Schonbein, a study co-author and bioengineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, suggesting how the study findings could be put to good use.

This study has helped identify a simple, inexpensive way to prevent excessive weight gain in children from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Chewing food slowly is easy to follow, and sustainable over the long haul. What’s best is that it does not restrict children from eating their favourite foods.

So the next time your kids chomp on food, have them chew slowly to keep those pounds at bay!

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