Objective Few studies have examined the causal relationships between lifestyle habits and obesity. With a focus on eating speed in patients with type 2 diabetes, this study aimed to analyse the effects of changes in lifestyle habits on changes in obesity using panel data. Methods Patient-level panel data from 2008 to 2013 were generated using commercially available insurance claims data and health check-up data. The study subjects comprised Japanese men and women (n=59 717) enrolled in health insurance societies who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the study period. Body mass index (BMI) was measured, and obesity was defined as a BMI of 25 or more. Information on lifestyle habits were obtained from the subjects' responses to questions asked during health check-ups. The main exposure of interest was eating speed ('fast', 'normal' and 'slow'). Other lifestyle habits included eating dinner within 2 hours of sleeping, after-dinner snacking, skipping breakfast, alcohol consumption frequency, sleep adequacy and tobacco consumption. A generalised estimating equation model was used to examine the effects of these habits on obesity. In addition, fixed-effects models were used to assess these effects on BMI and waist circumference. Results The generalised estimating equation model showed that eating slower inhibited the development of obesity. The ORs for slow (0.58) and normal-speed eaters (0.71) indicated that these groups were less likely to be obese than fast eaters (P<0.001). Similarly, the fixed-effects models showed that eating slower reduced BMI and waist circumference. Relative to fast eaters, the coefficients of the BMI model for slow and normal-speed eaters were -0.11 and -0.07, respectively (P<0.001). Discussion Changes in eating speed can affect changes in obesity, BMI and waist circumference. Interventions aimed at reducing eating speed may be effective in preventing obesity and lowering the associated health risks.
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