Another Point for the Crackpots, Part 2

that awkward moment when your friend eats off your plate without asking

Childhood Obesity News has been discussing the ideas of Horace Fletcher and more recent responses to fletcherizing. Fletcher’s ideas were wildly popular and widespread, then forgotten and discredited, and he was perceived as kind of a wingnut. In recent years, his precepts have been revived for another look.

Katherine Harmon Courage reported for Scientific American on a Chinese study that tested out Fletcher’s insistence on the thorough and complete chewing of food. Those Harbin Medical University researchers found that chewing to the point of liquification might help the human body regulate its perceptions of hunger and satiety. Courage says:

Wolfing down a whole meal is often considered poor form, and previous research has linked slower eating habits with a healthier weight. The common wisdom is that eating more slowly gives the body more time to ‘feel full.’ […] One theory is that breaking food down in the mouth via more chewing allows the body easier access to nutrients, which would allow less consumption for the same nutritional benefit.

The Chinese study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Preliminary exploration indicated that obese men, while taking bites of about the same size as their more svelte counterparts, tend to eat quickly, with less chewing.

For the experiment, the subjects included both obese men and males of a healthy weight. From each group, some were instructed to chew each bite of food 15 times, and some were told to chew 40 times. The results showed that increased chewing led to the consumption of about 12% fewer calories per meal. Over time, this could add up and make a real difference to an individual’s weight. Still, the findings don’t satisfactorily explain what’s going in terms of science.

Missed signals

Last month, The Times of India writer named Anand Holla revisited the thorough-chewing regime, in relation to the gut-hormone profile, specifically of three hormones — leptin, cholestokinnen, and ghrelin. They work together to signal that the body has had enough to eat. But they take 20 to 40 minutes to do their job, by which time the individual has already had the opportunity to eat way more than necessary. For this reason alone, slow eating and careful, thorough chewing appear to be advisable.

The mechanical breaking-down action of the teeth is helped out by the chemical action of saliva, which contains a fat-metabolizing enzyme that starts the work of digestion before nourishment is even swallowed. The stomach, Holla warns, does not particularly welcome inadequately processed contents. The writer says:

Sloppily chewed food promotes intestinal bacteria, causing flatulence, bloating, constipation, stomach ache, cramps and even diarrhea… The longer your food stays in touch with your saliva, the better it gets lubricated and lesser the stress on your esophagus. Even digesting carbohydrates starts with chewing right as your saliva detaches chemical bonds that connect the starch-containing simple sugars. When you don’t chew well, these enzymes can’t break down starches or digest fats, inducing sluggishness and loss of energy.

Mahatma Gandhi was of course a national hero of India as well as a world-renowned philosopher, and Holla reminds readers that the great man advised his followers to “Chew your drink and drink your food.” As if that were not authority enough, the macrobioticist Verne Varona quoted the (not officially recognized) Essene Gospels, where Jesus of Nazareth suggested:

And chew well your food with your teeth, that it may become water, and that the angel of water may turn it into blood in your body.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Chew on This: More Mastication Cuts Calorie Intake by 12 Percent,”, 08/03/11
Source: “Why chew food thoroughly,”, 09/11/13
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