How Long Does It Take Your Brain to Register That the Stomach Is Full?

Eating slowly may help you maintain a healthy weight.

Because your brain doesn't immediately register that your stomach is full, you may be at risk of eating more than your body needs and getting too full if you are prone to eating quickly or on-the-go. You can reduce your calorie intake if you focus on slowing down and enjoying every bite of food during meals.

The Physiology

Your brain and stomach register feelings of fullness after about 20 minutes, mentions Cara Stewart, dietitian and nutritionist, in a "Penn Metabolic & Bariatric News" article. During this time, receptors inform the brain that your body is receiving nutrients by sending hormone signals. The hormone cholecystokinin is released by your intestines and the hormone leptin tells your brain about your long-term needs and overall satiety based on how much energy your body is storing. Leptin may amplify the signals that cholecystokinin sends to enhance your sense of fullness and it may help the neurotransmitter dopamine give you feelings of pleasure after eating, according to Ann MacDonald, editor of "Harvard Mental Health Letter." If you eat too fast, these hormones may not have enough time to properly communicate.


In a 2008 study published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association," 30 healthy women were studied on two separate occasions in which they ate at two different rates. The subjects used scales to rate factors such as their hunger, satiety, thirst, desire to eat and the deliciousness of their meals. When they consumed their meals slowly, they ate significantly fewer calories and consumed significantly more water than when they ate at a faster rate. Additionally, they were less likely to feel satiated when they ate quickly.


You may be prone to eating quickly if you don't prioritize meal time. If you want to try adjusting your eating rate, first adjust your schedule and commit at least 20 to 30 minutes to each meal so that you can chew and taste your food at a leisurely pace. Encourage thoughtful eating by steering clear of distractions such as the TV, a newspaper or the phone. If you continue to have trouble eating at a slower pace, make fast eating physically difficult by putting your utensil in your non-dominant hand, by using a smaller utensil such as a baby spoon or by using chopsticks. Use a timer to make sure you're sticking to your goal.


Slow eating isn't always a cure-all for weight problems. For instance, if you are obese you may have a condition such as leptin resistance, according to Ann MacDonald. This means your body is less responsive to pleasure and satiety signals sent by the hormone leptin. Your brain may also be prone to receiving conflicting "must eat now" triggers from environmental cues such as the smell of a tasty dessert. Still, eating at a slower pace may complement the other weight loss tips you get from your doctor.