Savor that Thanksgiving meal – and each one after that. People who eat too fast are more likely to become obese or develop risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, according to a recent study.

The research, presented last week at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions, used hospital exams and self-administered questionnaires to track how some people who gobbled their food had an increase prevalence of a cluster of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome. Fast eaters were 11.6 percent more likely to have developed the serious condition than were normal eaters, 6.5 percent, or slow eaters, 2.3 percent.

Metabolic syndrome affects about 23 percent of adults, who have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and diseases related to fatty buildup in artery walls. The condition occurs when a person has three or more of these measurements:

— Waistline larger than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women.

— A level of fat in the blood, called triglycerides, of 150 milligrams or more per deciliter of blood, which is written as mg/dL.

— “Good” HDL cholesterol levels of less than 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women.

High blood pressure, with the top number at 130 or more and the bottom number at 80 or more.

— Fasting blood sugar, or glucose, of 100 mg/dL or greater.

Lead author Takayuki Yamaji, M.D., a cardiologist at Hiroshima University in Japan, and fellow researchers looked at health exam information for more than 1,000 patients from Miyoshi Central Hospital.

The researchers gleaned medical history and information about lifestyle factors – such as smoking, drinking alcohol, diet and physical activity – from questionnaires.

In 2008, the 642 men and 441 women didn’t have metabolic syndrome. Researchers then put the patients into three eating-speed categories – slow, normal and fast – and compared the rate of metabolic syndrome. Five years later, 84 people had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. The quick eaters had gained more weight, and had higher blood sugar and a larger waistline.

“The person eating fast tends not to feel satiety,” Yamaji said. “Therefore, they are likely to do overeating, and intake a lot of calories. These cause future obesity.”

Some of this isn’t new. Scientists have been studying the effects of eating rates on obesity and health for years.

Another Japanese study in 2011 found eating too fast could cause weight gain. Researchers examined data from 529 men who received employer-provided health checkups in 2000 and 2008. It showed the fast-eating group gained more weight in all age groups. In 2014 , a study on 20 overweight or obese people tracked hunger after five-minute meals and after 30-minute meals. It showed slow eating could be help prevent overeating.

But Yamaji wants to dive deeper into the causes. He believes the next important step will be to gather more details about the pace of eating and blood sugar, or glucose, fluctuation levels and how that impacts oxidative stress. That’s the damage done when there’s a disturbance in the balance of the body’s cellular-level reactions as it processes or metabolizes oxygen.

Previous studies have shown that glucose fluctuation increases oxidative stress. And that oxidative stress, in turn, can affect the body’s production of insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and allows the body to use glucose for energy. Without it, the blood has a build-up of sugar and that can cause diabetes.

“Eating more slowly,” Yamaji said, “may be a crucial lifestyle change to help prevent metabolic syndrome.”

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