Eating Food Too Fast Speeds Heartburn

Slow Eating Cuts Acid Reflux Risks

May 23, 2003 - Fast eating, not just fast food, can increase the risk of acid reflux after meals, according to a new study. Researchers say people who eat their food quickly are more likely to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

GERD occurs when stomach acids wash up into the esophagus and cause symptoms such as chest pain and heartburn. If left untreated, the condition can lead to more serious problems, such as narrowing of the esophagus, bleeding, or a precancerous condition known as Barrett's esophagus.

Several lifestyle factors are known to affect the risk of GERD, such as a person's weight and the type of foods they eat. But in this study, researchers looked at whether the speed alone with which a person eats a meal may contribute to the risk of acid reflux and GERD.

Researchers asked 10 healthy volunteers to eat a normal, 690-calorie meal in either five or 30 minutes on alternate days and then monitored them for two hours after the meals for signs of acid reflux and GERD.

The study showed that the speedy meals induced a total of 15 GERD episodes compared to 11.5 GERD episodes triggered by the more leisurely meal. Acid reflux episodes were reported a total of 12.5 times after the five-minute meal versus 8.5 times after the 30-minute meal.

The results were presented this week at Digestive Disease Week in Orlando, Fla.

"Since rapid food intake produces more [GERD], eating slowly may represent another life-style modification aimed at reducing [GERD]," write Stephan M. Wildi of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and colleagues. "In other words, 'Your mother was right.'"