A team of bioengineers and doctors found that slow chewing can help children realize they are already full. In turn, slow eating can keep excess weight off.
National University of Mexico doctors and University of California (UC), San Diego bioengineers focused on the "satiety reflex" process where the stomach signals the brain when it's already full. A 30-second chewing approach resulted in a 3 to 4 percent weight decrease a year after the study. Chewing food slowly for 30 seconds before the next bite helped the kids avoid overeating.
The study published in the Pediatric Obesity journal on Dec. 15 suggested that slow eating or chewing is an effective, inexpensive and simple way to avoid excess weight gain. Satiety reflex takes 15 minutes to start but in today's fast-paced world, most meals can be consumed before the reflex can kick in.
"To lose weight, you need to stop eating. But it's not that simple for most people," said co-author Marcos Intaglietta from UC San Diego's Department of Bioengineering.
The study involved 54 children aged six to 17 years ago from Durango City in Mexico. Their data were compared to a control group wherein kids of the same age were enrolled. The compliant group were asked to eat slower by counting 30 seconds while chewing before taking the next bite. The non-compliant group ate normally.
Six months after the experiment, the compliant group lost weight between two to 5.7 percent. After a year, the average lost weight were between 3.4 to 4.8 percent.
Kids in the non-compliant group gained weight by 4.4 to 5.8 percent after six months. After a year, the excess weight further increased by 8.3 to 12.6 percent.
"You can adopt this slow eating approach for yourself and keep it up for the rest of your life," said co-author Geert Schmid-Schonbein, a bioengineer professor from UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering.
The slow eating approach doesn't require people to change what they eat. It doesn't feel depriving. The approach is universal and can be applied in any ethnic and cultural setting. Slow eating can turn into a lifetime habit, allowing parents to teach the technique to their kids.
The findings were deliberated by Mexico's Yucatán, Veracruz and Michoacan states. The research team was asked to conduct the study in the states' respective schools. The team aims to conduct a larger study which will involve Hispanic children in both Southern California and Mexico.