Children Can Maintain Healthy Weight By Eating Slowly

Geert W. Schmid-Schonbein, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor and Chairman Department of Bioengineering Adjunct Professor in Medicine University of California San Diego

Prof. Schmid-Schonbein

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Geert W. Schmid-Schonbein, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor and Chairman
Department of Bioengineering
Adjunct Professor in Medicine
University of California San Diego

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Schmid-Schonbein: Most approaches to control/reduce body weight focus on reducing food quantity, improving quality and promoting daily activity. These approaches, effective in the short term, only yield modest weight control. Weight management strategies recommended in the past have not significantly diminished the current trend towards childhood and adolescence obesity.

We developed and tested an alternative approach to control weight gain in healthy individuals to reduce the risk for development of obesity and diabetes complications. The essence is to:

Eat deliberately slow AND stop eating when you feel no longer hungry”.

The approach avoids any form of special diet, uses no drugs, can be adopted for a lifetime and used in any ethnic environment. Children in a Mexican School in Durango were instructed by a pediatrician to learn to eat deliberately slow and to stop eating when the satiety reflex sets in, i.e. the moment when the feeling of hunger has disappeared.

They were instructed to:

  • quench the thirst at the beginning of a meal with water,
  • use a portable 30 second hourglass sand timer,
  • take a bite only when the sand timer was turned, and
  • stop eating when they were no longer hungry (as compared to feeling of fullness), and
  • limit food consumption after the point of satiety.

Over a one-year period, children not using the hourglass excessively increased their body-mass index, while in contrast children using the hourglass grew normally their body-mass index. Body surface area and waist hip ratio followed the same trend. The study shows feasibility of regulating food intake by education that is directed at developing slow eating habits and cessation of eating at satiety. A combination of behavioral training and focused eating monitoring may constitute a weight control method that may serve a life-time and can be promoted for children and adolescents at moderate costs, on a national basis.

 Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Schmid-Schonbein: The study shows feasibility of regulating food intake by education directed at developing healthy eating habits.

Waiting 30 seconds in between bites of food allows children to realize they’re no longer hungry before they overeat—preventing excessive weight gain.

“Our method focuses on preventing weight gain,” said Dr. Ruy Perez-Tamayo, from the Laboratory of Research in Experimental Medicine in the School of Medicine at the National University of Mexico. “It is simple, inexpensive and easy to follow.”

There is good news: Good news:  You will not be hungry at the end of a slow eating period, even though you minimized your calorie intake.

The slow eating approach has the advantage of being sustainable over the long term, unlike most diets, said Geert Schmid-Schonbein, a study co-author and bioengineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, because it doesn’t require you to change what you eat on a daily basis. It doesn’t deprive you of your favorite foods and it can be applied in any cultural and ethnic context.

Put it in another way:   “Grandma:  Your cooking is the best in the world!  Please allow me to eat slow and don’t ask me to eat it all at once.”

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Schmid-Schonbein: We need to carry out a clinical trial to test “slow eating and detection of satiety as signal to stop eating” and over longer periods of time (this study was only one year).

We need to find out whether the approach developed in the adolescents can also be applied to adults.

Development of a new technology to monitor and record eating patterns in individuals and provide meaningful feedback and incentives to change eating habits from fast eating to slow eating and stopping at satiety.

Citation:

Y. Salazar Vázquez, M. A. Salazar Vázquez, G. López Gutiérrez, K. Acosta Rosales, P. Cabrales, F. Vadillo-Ortega, M. Intaglietta, R. Pérez Tamayo, G. W. Schmid-Schönbein. Control of overweight and obesity in childhood through education in meal time habits. The ‘good manners for a healthy future’ programme. Pediatric Obesity, 2015; DOI:10.1111/ijpo.12091

Geert W. Schmid-Schonbein, Ph.D. (2015). Children Can Maintain Healthy Weight By Eating Slowly

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