Does Eating Quickly Make You Fat?

By Matthew Yglesias

Catherine Rampell posts the following chart showing the relationship between the number of minutes per day the average person in a given country spends eating, and the percentage of the population with a BMI of over 30:

6a00d8341c66b253ef01157070bca7970b-800wi-1

I think this sort of shows the pitfalls of drawing lines through scatterplots. Another way of looking at it is that of the countries charter, the Asian ones are all skinnier than the continental European ones and the Europeans are all skinnier than the Anglophones.

Another way of looking at it is to take pairs of culturally similar countries—the United States and Canada, for example—and see what you find. Well, the US and Canada score very similarly on the speed of eating metric, but the US is way fatter than Canada. Korea and Japan look similar on BMI, but pretty different on length of time spent eating.

Long story short, I’m skeptical that there’s a very strong relationship here.

9 responses to “Does Eating Quickly Make You Fat?

  1. i think eating three meals a day, even if you are not hungry, makes you fat.
    if you read the digestive times for foods in natural hygiene information, eating in a stress-free manner is important, but all foods have their amounts of time required for digestion.

    i think people should eat when they are hungry, and not necessarily at set times.
    it seems to me that depending on our activity levels, and the fact that none of our days are exactly the same, the intervals and amounts which we eat and drink would also seem to vary.
    i also think that if people become attuned enough to their bodies, they will know exactly when they are hungry, and what it is that they need to eat.
    also, it is very good to eat in the late afternoon, or very early evening, and leave as much time for digestion before our bodies quiet down for rest and repair in sleep.
    (it is hard to do these things, but i think it is a very reasonable approach.)

  2. also, i think we should concentrate on how much water we drink, as much as we concentrate on how we consume our meals.
    water is our best elixir.

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  4. i’m also skeptical about the correlation. another factor to consider: the debatable reliability of bmi as a measure of obesity. where do the bmi figures come from? what methods (weight – height ratio? caliper? underwater weighing?) were used to get the measurements? i know the bmi thing is hotly contested–some people think it’s worthless, others say it’s not. but either way, it’s pretty easy to jump to simple, reductive conclusions based on studies like these (esp. when they appear to validate existing beliefs about culture, food, and weight). and clearly, obesity is a complex issue that deserves more than simple, reductive conclusions.

  5. Zea mays! Zea mays!

  6. Poor ol’ New Zealand…

  7. The problem with time spent eating per day is that it doesn’t tell you much. If I eat each item of food slower, say, comparing how long it takes me to eat one small order of fries compared with how long it takes Bob to do so, that is useful data.
    But per day is too vague. I might be spending so much time eating because I eat slowly, or I might be doing so because I eat a lot of food and do so often, but eat quickly.

  8. Eating 400 calories in 15 min is very different than eating 1,000 calories in 15 min. What about consumption rates?

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