Teaching children to chew thoroughly and eat more slowly can help them lose weight without dieting. [Photo: Bigstock]

Chewing slower helps kids keep the weight off

18 December, 2015

Natural Health News — Waiting 30 seconds in between bites of food helps children to sense when they’ve had enough to eat – preventing excessive weight gain.

That’s the conclusion of a study in the journal Pediatric Obesity by an international team of researchers.

The study monitored the eating habits of 54 children ages 6 to 17 in the city of Durango, Mexico for a year. The students were compared to a control group with similar demographics. Its goal was to minimise the amount of food that children ate before their stomachs finally told their brains that they’re no longer hungry – the so-called “satiety reflex.” That signal usually takes about 15 minutes to kick in. But in modern society, whole meals can be consumed in much less time, the researchers said.

What you need to know

» Chewing food slowly and more thoroughly helps give the brain time to understand that the stomach is full.

» This connection between brain and stomach usually takes 15 minutes to kick-in; but many of us don’t event take that long to eat our meals.

» When US researchers taught overweight children to eat more slowly the children naturally lost up to 5% of their bodyweight in a year.

» The researchers conclude that unlike dieting, simply changing the way we eat is an effective and sustainable contribution to health over the long-term.

Teaching kids to chew

The students were divided into two groups: those who ate slowly as instructed by researchers, and those who didn’t.  These two groups were compared to a third ‘control’ group.

Those in the slow chewing group were asked to chew each bite for 30 seconds before taking the next bite. This gave them time to realise that they were no longer hungry and stop eating. To make sure they waited the right amount of time, they all received small hourglasses that emptied in 30 seconds. Researchers instructed them to take a bite, flip the hourglass and not take another bite until the hourglass ran empty.

The children were also instructed to drink a glass of water before each meal and avoid snacks in between meals. The approach was dubbed “Good Manners for a Healthy Future.”

Striking results

The results were striking. The weight of the students in the slow chewing group dropped anywhere from 2-5.7% after six months and 3.4-4.8% after one year. By contrast, the weight of the students who ate normally increased by 4.4-5.8% after six months and 8.3-12.6% after a year. The weight of the control group increased by 6.5-8.2% after one year.

“To lose weight, you need to stop eating. But it’s not that simple for most people,” said study co-author Marcos Intaglietta, from the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego.

“Our method focuses on preventing weight gain,” adds co-author Dr. Ruy Perez-Tamayo, from the Laboratory of Research in Experimental Medicine in the School of Medicine at the National University of Mexico. “It is simple, inexpensive and easy to follow.” It also doesn’t require taking any medications.

Better than dieting

The researchers note that adults can adopt this way of eating too (though it is untested in adults) – and teach it to their children in turn.

The slow eating approach also has the advantage of being sustainable over the long term, unlike most diets, said Geert Schmid-Schonbein, another study co-author and bioengineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, because it doesn’t require you to change what you eat on a daily basis. It doesn’t deprive you of your favourite foods and it can be applied in any cultural and ethnic context.”