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Eating slower could help prevent obesity, researchers say

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Speedy eaters might finish their food faster, but those calories might linger longer.

A new study published in the online journal BMJ Open suggests that eating speed could affect a person's weight.

A research team in Japan set out to analyze the effects of eating speed on obesity -- defined as BMI greater than 25 in Japan -- by asking over 59,000 Japanese men and women with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes to rate their own eating speed as fast, normal or slow.

The results showed that slower eating speeds were linked to reductions in obesity, BMI and waist circumference.

In addition to eating speed, the researchers found a few other eating habits people with obesity showed, such as frequently eating dinner within two hours of going to bed, snacking after dinner and skipping breakfast.

The data in this study is based on observed behaviors that had happened in the past, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about whether eating speed is a cause of obesity.

However, the authors said that controlling eating speed may be a means of regulating body weight and helping to prevent obesity.

A possible reason? Fast eaters may continue to eat even after they are full, even when their bodies have an adequate amount of calories, since the brain takes a little time to interpret chemical signals from the stomach that say "enough." The combined effect of eating quickly and overeating may contribute to weight gain.

So methods to help people reduce their eating speed, the authors conclude, could be an effective way to help prevent obesity and lower the many health risks, like diabetes, that come with it.

Jay-Sheree Allen is a family medicine resident physician at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and a resident at the ABC News Medical Unit.

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