People who thoughtfully chew their food and don’t rush mealtimes not only avoid indigestion – they could be preventing diabetes as well, claim scientists.
They have discovered that those of us who wolf down our meals are two-and-a-half times more at risk.
This could be because eating very quickly encourages weight gain which can trigger the illness.
Scientists in Lithuania looked at 702 people, including 234 who had just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
They all filled in a detailed questionnaire about their lifestyles which included sections on diets, exercise and whether they smoked.
One question asked them if they ate faster, more slowly or at the same speed as others.
They were also measured and weighed to calculate their body mass index which determines whether they are obese
The researchers found that those who admitted they ate more quickly than most other people were two-and-a-half times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
They claimed that this trend existed even once they had accounted for other causes such as obesity, smoking, diet and a family history of the illness.
Lead researcher Dr Lina Radzeviciene from Lithuanian University of Health Sciences said: ‘The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing globally and becoming a world pandemic. It appears to involve interaction between susceptible genetic backgrounds and environmental factors.
‘It’s important to identify modifiable risk factors that may help people reduce their chances of developing the disease.’
The scientists – who presented their study at the International Congress of Endocrinology and European Congress of Endocrinology in Florence, Italy – did not explain why eating fast appeared to be linked to type 2 diabetes.
But obesity has long been recognised as one of the main causes of the illnesses.
Previous studies have found that people who eat quickly also eat more, and consequently are more likely to be overweight.
Experts think this is because their digestive system doesn’t have a chance to send a signal to the brain that it is full.
More than three million Britons now suffer from diabetes and the numbers have increased by 50 per cent in just five years.
The charity Diabetes UK has also calculated that the NHS spends £9billion every year treating patients which works out as a tenth of its annual budget.
Some 90 per cent of sufferers have type 2 diabetes, the form which can be caused by being overweight or obese.
Last year a separate report warned rising numbers of children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, whereas in the past it was usually only seen in adults.
Figures suggest up to 1,400 have type 2 diabetes – a few decades ago there were virtually no sufferers.
But David Speigelhalter, a professor in the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, warned that the study was too small to be meaningful.
He said: ‘This is one of those many small studies that raise an interesting question but don’t prove causation’
‘It is a huge and unjustified jump to say that eating slower reduces your risk of getting diabetes.’