I came across this story today, which talks about the device that counts the number of bites of food individuals take over the course of the day. The idea appears to be there being aware of this can help individuals to keep within some sort of recommended calorie limit for the day. However, as someone in the article alludes to, the number of bites does not tell us what sort of food has been consumed, which some might argue is actually more important overall. I agree with this, and doubt the usefulness of a device of this nature.
There is also talk in this article of other devices that are really designed to monitor rate of eating. This, I think, is a much more useful metric. There is evidence from previous research that taking longer over food and chewing more thoroughly has the potential to curb any tendency to overeat.
The articles cites a study which examined the relationship between speed of eating and weight in Chinese men . Overall, compared to normal weight individuals, those who were obese ate more quickly and chewed food less. The researchers went on ask men to consume a set meal under two different occasions. At one sitting, the men were asked to chew each mouthful of food 15 times. On the other occasion, they were to chew each mouthful 40 times. Overall, chewing food more thoroughly led to the men eating about 12 per cent less food in terms of its calorific value. Longer chewing was also associated with lower levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, and higher levels of appetite-sating hormones cholecystokinin and glucagon-like peptide 1.
This is not the only study that has found that consciously slowing down one’s eating can help individuals eat less quite automatically. In another study, 30 women were asked to eat a pasta-based meal and to take small bites and chew each one 15–20 times . At another sitting, they were asked to eat as quickly as possible. In this setting, the women consumed about 70 calories more, and felt less satisfied immediately after the meal and an hour later.
One simple tactic that can help to slow down rate of eating is after taking a bite, to put down the food (if eating it with one’s hands) or fork or spoon, and then chew the mouthful of food thoroughly. Food or cutlery should only be picked up again one the food has been chewed completely (to a cream) and swallowed.
I think just this strategy alone can do much to slow down the rate of eating, help us derive more satisfaction from food and, ultimately, have us eating less but without hunger.
1. Li J, et al. Improvement in chewing activity reduces energy intake in one meal and modulates plasma gut hormone concentrations in obese and lean young Chinese men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(3):709-16
2. Study presented at the Annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity. 20-24 October 2006, Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts, US