Eating rate (ER) is part of the microstructure of meal ingestion and has been of increasing scientific interest due to manipulations being implicated in energy intake, appetite control and mindfulness. The current thesis aims to develop and test the slow eating rate (SER) protocol for use in overweight-free living adults and to investigate the protocol’s effects on body weight, hormones, metabolites and mindfulness.
The developmental part spanned over 5 studies. Studies A and B the SER was refined and finalised through volunteer feedback and in Study C successfully transformed into a 2-minute, online-friendly video which was then incorporated into an online (website and application) weight loss tool. In Study D software (AlexNet) which could identify chewing rate through ER video play back was developed. In Study E, the Mindful Eating Questionnaire -under development (MEQ-UD) was not found as a valid proxy for measuring ER.
The final study was a 10-week parallel, open label randomised controlled trial (control group: n = 7 intervention: n = 8) testing the SER protocol in a 6-week community intervention. Significant changes in body composition were seen in the intervention group, with reductions in weight (p= 0.006), BMI (p=0.006), body fat % (p= 0.026) and visceral fat (p= 0.007) and a trend towards a reduced energy intake (p=0.086) as compared to stable anthropometrics in the control group (n=7).The SER protocol resulted in significantly increased mindful eating in the intervention group. The online monitoring (web and app) proved effective, with duration of intervention (days), total online session duration (minutes) and average online session duration/visit (mins) shown to be the most influential parameters correlated with BMI change. Combined, these data provide novel insights into the effects of a SER protocol in controlled environments and the community. Replication and evaluation in larger and diverse population groups is warranted.