Portuguese researcher awarded for ‘eat-slow’ research

in News · 07-01-2012 00:00:00 · 0 Comments

A Portuguese researcher has won an international award for proving that the speed at which foods are ingested has a direct influence on body weight and that eating slowly helps to lose weight.

The acclaimed investigation was carried out over the space of a year by researcher Júlia Galhardo. It was based on 500 obese youngsters being followed by the Bristol Paediatric Hospital, UK and had the objective of studying hormones related to eating habits.
Ms. Galhardo’s work shows that there are two hormones from the digestive system that can be found in blood; ghrelin, which is segregated by the stomach and which induced hunger, and Peptide YY, which is released by cells in the intestine in response to feeding and gives the feeling of being satisfied.
The 500 youngsters were split into two groups. Participants in one group, the study group, were given an electronic scale each that weighed their lunch and dinner plates as they ate, the speed being measured by a pre-formatted rhythm of 300-350 grams of food every 12-15 minutes.
When the participants ate faster than the pre-defined rhythm the scales advised them to slow down.
The second group, the control group, was supplied with dietary and physical advice.
“After 12 months we checked the groups’ Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) and the group that had been given the scales showed a reduction in BMI that was significantly larger than the control groups’. This made us very happy as it is a cheap and accessible way for everyone to lose weight”, said Ms. Galhardo.
The researcher stressed it is common sense that eating slower makes people feel full, quicker and prevents weight gain, but until now no one has studied what happens on a hormonal level.
“There is a communication between the digestive system and the brain, in that the digestive system says: ‘we’re hungry, bring on the food’. After we eat it says: ‘that’s enough, we’re full, we don’t need any more food”, she explained.
Her research found that when the children and teens ate slowly the hormones that regulate hunger and fullness and which had been completely altered by previous poor eating habits became once again brought into check and started to regulate the communication between the digestive system and the brain.
But, she said, eating a meal should never take more than half an hour, taking into account a meal should always include vegetable soup and a main dish.
Ms. Galhardo now hopes her findings will be spread throughout health centres, made into educational campaigns and even taught in schools, highlighting that obesity is a matter of public health.
This year she was awarded with the Henning Andersen prize from the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology.


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