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Slow Eating Reduces Weight in Kids

Taking enough time to eat has long been advocated as an effective weight management strategy (remember, the real problem with fastfood is more often the “fast” than the “food”). I have also previously blogged about how eating too fast is an important predictor of obesity.

Not surprisingly therefore, various strategies to slow down eating are being explored to help manage weight (one such approach is the SMART system, an oral device that reduces bite size, thereby significantly increasing meal times).

Another novel approach to reducing “tachyphagia” was now explored in kids using a talking scale called a “Mandometer“. According to the manufacturer’s website, the device, originally intended for the treatment of eating disorders, ” allows the patient to see a rate of eating displayed on the screen that describes the rate at which normal individuals eat that amount of food and feel satiety as they eat. At the same time, the patient’s own eating speed and perception of satiety is shown on the screen.” 

In this study, by Ford and colleagues from the University of Bristol, UK, published in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal, 106 kids (aged 9-17) were radomised to either using the Mandometer, which provided real time feedback during meals to slow down versus standard lifestyle modification.

Participants using the Mandometer were initially trained once a week for six weeks, every second week for a further six weeks, and once every sixth week thereafter. The research nurse telephoned the patients to offer support and encouragement every second week from week 12 onwards.

Over the 18 month duration of the study, participants using the Mandometer had significantly lower BMI levels and a significant reduction in meal size.

The authors conclude that retraining eating behaviour with a feedback device is a useful adjunct to standard lifestyle modification in treating obesity among adolescents.

Edmonton, Alberta

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  1. Hunger management in kids is key to slow eating. High fiber foods between meals will help control the urge to gorge. I give my kids foods like carrots, walnuts, radishes or cucumbers that help to keep hunger at bay.

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  2. I wonder about the root causes of fast eating.
    For me as a kid, food would be restricted if it was noticed how much I had eaten, so eating fast was a strategy to get the amount I thought I needed. Also, eating with my family was stressful — I wanted to get up from the table as soon as possible. Eating overall was stressful as my weight was of concern to my parents from a young age (if they had applied less pressure I would most likely have not rebelled in quite the way I did — not blaming them, just an observation).
    Teaching kids to slow down when eating is one way — staging of the meal, with a vegetable-based soup or salad first, and the most calorie dense foods last, is another. I fear that these devices may work in the short run, but trigger resistance and rebellion in the long-term (such as eating at times when the device is not utilized).
    I think that not coming to the table overly hungry also helps, and as children’s and adults hunger levels vary from person to person and meal to meal, this can sometimes be hard to manage. For children who get their main meals in the form of free or subsidized meals at school, the pressure to eat fast in order to not be late or get enough food is also an issue. For these children, a compassionate approach is definitely in order, and I’m not sure that a machine like the one above would be regarded as such (even if they had access to it).

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  1. Dr. Sharma’s Obesity Notes » Blog Archive » Slow Eating Protects From Childhood Obesity? - [...] also, earlier this year, blogged about novel approaches like the MandoMeter or the SMART device to help people slow …

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