Three studies provide an interesting, proven tool to help you fulfill your health-related New Year's resolutions. Not unknown in other parts of the world is the idea of addressing the first step to food digestion. This is an important factor in reducing excess body weight. Mastication, or simply put – chewing, has a significant effect on the hormones of our gut; which in turn affects energy intake, metabolic caloric use, and overall body weight.
Mindful, Conscious Eating
The studies support the practice of mindful, conscious eating and the physiological and biochemical improvements to nutrition and wellbeing, when a moderate rather than a “grab and go” eating lifestyle is followed.
The various studies focused on the following objectives: one being to compare the differences in how chewing was different between lean and obese subjects. Another was to evaluate if eating the same meal at varying speeds of mastication would result in different postprandial (after eating) gut peptide responses. The third study’s objective focused on how staggered, compared to non-staggered, meals affected hormone and appetite dynamics, food pleasure, and the resulting energy intake.
Manipulating Eating Habits
The three studies utilized volunteer subjects and were conducted at clinical research facilities. The first study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January 1, 2010. The study subjects were 17 healthy adult males who were evaluated on the varying lengths of time they took to consume a meal. The first meal was consumed in 5 minutes and the second meal in 30 minutes. After each meal, the levels of gut hormones were assessed in the subjects, measuring the results for each of the meal durations. The conclusion of this study was that eating at a moderate rate, compared to a rapid rate, produces an increased anorexigenic gut peptide response, which resulted in a loss or decrease of appetite compared to the subjects who ate more quickly.
This is probably not a surprise to mindful eaters who, in many ways, eat their food as a form of meditation, chewing much slower than the majority of us do. They not only tend to enjoy their food more but also decrease their appetites and moderate their bodyweight. The second study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September, 2011. This study contained 16 lean and 14 obese young men who were the subjects of the study. There were two components to this particular study. The first component observed and investigated whether the obese subjects displayed different chewing patterns and factors than the lean subjects. The second component explored how the number of chews per each mouthful of a meal affected the subject’s energy intake. Two sittings of the same meals were consumed by each of the study subjects throughout the course of the day. The study used two specific amounts of chews per swallow. Each subject chewed one mouthful of food 15 times before swallowing, and then during the second meal of the same food, each subject chewed one mouthful of food 40 times before swallowing.
Chew More, Eat Less
The outcomes of this study were as follows: regardless of their body mass being either lean or obese, the subjects had ingested almost 12% less food (11.9%) intake after the 40 chews per mouthful meal than after the 15 chews per mouthful meal. This registered trial study concluded that using improved meal chewing interventions could prove to be a useful tool in reducing and combating obesity.
Much has been written about lower body weight and the French diet, as well as the eating habits of other countries and cultures compared to our American grad and go fast food lifestyle. These studies confirm something that has been apparent to other cultures, and even in earlier decades in the U.S.
The third study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, March 1, 2011, goes on to confirm that: staggered meals, where there were pauses in between the total consumption of the entire meal, resulted in a decrease of hunger, an increase in food reward, and greater satiety than in meals that were consumed without pause and at a faster rate of speed.
Our focus today in the U.S. is on reducing obesity in both children and adults, as well as addressing the growing epidemic of type II diabetes and metabolic syndromes, with their resultant increase in adult pathologies. Each of these conditions is directly linked to the over consumption of food. These studies are an invitation to our national culture to re-assess our fast-paced lifestyle as a means to reducing the leading health issues of our day.
If simply by slowing down how quickly we put food into our bodies we can save ourselves from individual and collective suffering, it would make sense for someone to start a campaign to ensure more time for kids and adults to eat a good breakfast, take a longer lunch and enjoy a more leisurely dinner.
It is usually the simple things in life that bring the greatest rewards. Rather than worrying about the number of calories we are putting into our bodies, it might be refreshing to shift our attention to our chewing habits, which have proven in these studies to reduce food intake by 11.9%, decrease caloric uptake, improve one’s food satisfaction, and enhance greater satiety. A lot of reward – for not a lot of effort.
Journal of Nutrition, March 1, 2011; vol. 141; no. 3, 482-488
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September, 2011; vol.94; no. 3, 709-716
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January 1,2010; vol.95; no. 1, 333-337
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