Fast eaters 11.6% more likely to develop metabolic syndrome

'Tis the season for sampling pumpkin pies and gorging on turkey leftovers, but diners might want to slow down this holiday season if they want to stay healthy, Japanese researchers reported at this year's American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Anaheim, California. 

Lead researcher Takayuki Yamaji, MD, and colleagues found through analysis of more than 1,000 middle-aged adults that those who described their consumption speed as slower than normal were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome or obesity, according to an AHA release

Yamaji and his team studied 642 men and 441 women—all free of metabolic syndrome at the study's baseline in 2008—for a total of five years. The initial population was divided into three separate cohorts based whether an individual said they ate slowly, at a normal pace or quickly.

After five years, the researchers found that fast eaters were 11.6 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, which comes with a cluster of comorbidities like heart disease, diabetes and stroke risks, than people who ate at a normal pace. While "normal" eaters were 6.5 percent likely to develop metabolic syndrome by the end of the study period, slow eaters were just 2.3 percent likely to do the same.

"Eating more slowly may be a crucial lifestyle change to help prevent metabolic syndrome," Yamaji said in the release. "When people eat fast they tend not to feel full and are more likely to overeat. Eating fast causes bigger glucose fluctuation, which can lead to insulin resistance."

Metabolic syndrome develops when an individual has three of any of the following risk factors: abdominal obesity, high fasting blood sugar, hypertension or hyperlipidemia. Yamaji said his team believes their work can also be applied to American populations.