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It's not just what you eat, it's how you eat

October 22, 2008 |  9:00 am

Eating1Obesity is often blamed on eating high-fat, high-sugar, non-nutritious foods. But the manner in which one eats may play an important role in body weight, too.

A study published online today in the British Medical Journal found that people who said they eat quickly and eat until full were three times more likely to be overweight than people who said they don't eat quickly and don't eat until they are full. The study surveyed more than 3,000 Japanese men and women about their eating habits. The researchers defined "eating until full" as consuming a large quantity of food in one meal. (This is not the same thing as gorging or binge eating.) The researchers concluded that eating quickly and eating until full "has a supra-additive effect on overweight" regardless of the food eaten.

There is little research to help explain what drives people to eat quickly or eat until full. It's possible, the researchers suggest, that changes to society have influenced how we eat, such as fewer families eating meals together at home, more people eating while distracted, more people eating fast food and greater access to inexpensive, energy-dense food served in large portions.

The solution? Studies show that people can learn to eat slowly and eat less. Families should focus on serving appropriate portions of food and eating in a non-distracting environment, said the lead author of the study, Dr. Hiroyasu Iso, from Osaka University in Japan.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Competitive eaters participate in a 2008 contest in New York City. Credit: Rhonda Vanover / Getty Images.

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