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It’s Fine to Eat Standing Up

Should we add eating standing up to the list of food no-no's? It's unclear, science says

smithsonian.com

You shouldn’t eat right before bed, or before swimming, or before a lot of medical procedures. But should we add eating standing up to that list? It’s unclear, science says.

Some claim that eating while standing will eating will lead to weight gain. USA Today writes:

Studies show that people who skip sit-down meals in the interest of saving time may be costing themselves unwanted calories. Canadian researchers asked one group of people to eat food out of plastic containers while standing over a kitchen counter, while a second group ate an identical meal off of a plate sitting down at a table.

At their next meal a few hours later, the “standers” downed about 30 percent more calories than the “sitters.” The researchers theorized that eating on your feet doesn’t register psychologically as a “real meal”, and as a result people may subconsciously grant themselves permission to eat more later in the day.

But, regardless of this vein of chiding, many of us still eat while standing up. And BBC Future says that it’s probably, actually, just fine for you. Those who sit down to eat spend 34 percent longer on their meals than those who stand, so standing meals could make your scarf rather than savor. But science suggests that the it doesn’t really matter how fast you eat. Here’s BBC Future:

There are very few studies comparing fast and slow eaters, partly because it wouldn’t be easy to randomise people into eating at a particular speed and then to enforce that at every meal. A study from 1994 did include questions about eating speed in a survey of dietary habits. They found the speed at which you believed you ate had no relationship with the frequency of indigestion.  Research conducted in 2010 found the same, but these two studies rely on our ability both to judge our eating speed accurately, and to report it honestly.

This problem was overcome in a South Korean study, which timed how long a group of cadets training at the Armed Forces Nursing Academy actually took to finish their meals. With their regimented life where they all woke, ate and exercised at the same time, they were the ideal group of people to study. The one difference in their daily routines was the speed at which they chose to eat. But yet again, if you examine the study in detail, speed of eating seemed to have little effect on indigestion.

Even speed eaters, who eat quicker than anyone else (albeit usually sitting down), don’t seem to get more indigestion than those who eat at a more humanlike pace. All this seems to suggest that the idea that eating standing up might be bad for you is, at the very best, unsupported by the scientific evidence. So stand tall, hungry lunchers.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Lessons in School Lunch
What’s in Your Lunch Box?

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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