ATLANTA - When it comes to mealtimes, you fast and furious eater, or do you take your good old time?
How you answer that question may reveal something about your overall health risks.Web MD Senior Medical Editor Dr. Hansa Bhargava says the faster we scarf down our food, the more likely we are to struggle with our weight and other health issues.
Japanese researchers tracked about 1,000 volunteers -- an average age of 51, who were classified as slow, normal or fast eaters.
"And what they found was that after about 5 years, was that people who ate quickly, actually gained more weight, had a bigger abdominal girth and also had higher blood sugar," Dr. Bhargava says.
The speedy eaters were 11 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of medical problems that can raise our risk of developing chronic problems like heart disease and diabetes.
So why do we eat so fast?
"It could be mindless munching," Dr. Bhargava says. "You're watching a movie, you eat an entire bag of chips, so you're ingesting a lot more calories."
It should take about 20 minutes to finish a meal because that's how long it takes for the brain to recognize we feel full.
Eat too fast, it's hard for our brain to sense when we've had enough.
Bhargava says practice mindful eating, which essentially means sit down and pay attention to what's on your plate and what's going on in your head.
"Be mindful about what you're eating, how you're eating, why you're eating," she says. "So, are you eating just for the sake of eating? Are you eating because you're watching a movie and you feel like eating? Are you actually eating because you're hungry?"
It's hard to keep track of your eating on the run, so Bhargava recommends sitting down to eat, preferably with someone else. Put down your phone, and turn off the TV, focusing on what's on your plate not some screen in front of you.
"Put your forks down after every bite," Dr. Bhargava says. "Eat foods that require chewing. And socialize. What a great opportunity to be with friends and family."