Want to lose weight? Chew more, say researchers

by SARA on August 11, 2011

"Thank You" pieParsing through my twitter feed this morning, I came across one of those can’t-help-but-click headlines: “40 Chews Per Bite May Be Key to Weight Loss.” Turns out, a team of researchers had found that not only do obese people tend to chew less, but also when individuals–obese or normal weight–are asked to chew each piece of food exactly 40 times, they’ll consume 15% fewer calories in a meal than when they’re asked to chew food just 15 times. In theory this makes sense…but I’m still left thinking really?! That’s a whole lot of bites.

Still, I’m a huge believer in the whole notion that slowing down and savoring food can help people avoid overeating. Studies show that it takes about 20 minutes or so for our fullness signals to kick in. Time and again I notice that when I’m eating in a setting where there’s great conversation, I almost never overdo it.

It turns out that the Journal of the American Dietetic Association also has some things to say about eating speed. This month, it’s published two articles on the subject. In one, researchers were able to connect women’s speed of eating with their body weight. In another, a different team used something called a “bite counter” to help people slow things down. Pretty cute idea. And it made me think that an easy trick to slow myself down in a more-realistic-than-40-bites way might be to count the number of bites or chews I naturally take. Then, to remember that stat the next time I’m eating when I’m stressed harried, or in a big hurry. I suspect that just having an awareness of some kind of target number might help.

Have any of you tried (or thought of trying) something like this? Would love to hear what you think!


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Amanda August 11, 2011 at 3:49 pm

When I was in high school, one of my teachers spent an entire class period on something she had read about called “mindful eating”. She gave each student a clementine, and asked us to think about each bite and chew it at least twenty times. Needless to say, even though it was just before lunch each student took at least half the class to eat their clementine and some didn’t even finish. I really think the idea of slowing down when we eat will just lead to less food consumption and possible, if combined with a good diet and exercise, weight loss.

SARA August 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Amanda, I love that that story. Makes me want to conduct that exact experiment…over lunch or something!

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