Diners who gobble down their food quickly are five times more likely to develop symptoms which raise their risk of a heart attack than those who savour each mouthful.
Research by Japanese scientists has found that people who eat slowly and mindfully are less likely to gain weight or develop metabolic syndrome - the name for a cluster of dangerous health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
The researchers followed more than 1000 middle-aged men and women for five years, monitoring their eating speed and health.
They found that just 2.3 per cent of the slow eaters developed metabolic syndrome, compared with 6.5 per cent of medium-speed eaters, and 11.6 per cent of the fast eaters.
It means that those who ate the fastest were five times more likely to develop symptoms which raised their risk of a heart attack, diabetes and stroke.
They were also more than three times more likely to have gained three stone in weight.
Scientists believe that eating too quickly prevents the brain from noticing when the body has taken in too many calories. Unused calories are stored as fat, placing pressure on the heart. Eating too fast also appears to cause spikes of blood sugar, which can stop insulin working effectively.
"Eating more slowly may be a crucial lifestyle change to help prevent metabolic syndrome," said Dr Takayuki Yamaji, the study author and a cardiologist at Hiroshima University.
"When people eat fast they tend not to feel full and are more likely to overeat. Eating fast causes bigger glucose fluctuation, which can lead to insulin resistance."
Metabolic syndrome affects one in four adults in Britain. On their own diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity can damage blood vessels, but having all three is particularly dangerous.
"It's a reminder that many of us have hectic lifestyles which may include eating quickly at the desk over lunchtime, or in a rush commuting home," said Prof Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation.
"It's important that people take the time to choose healthy, balanced options rather than just reaching for ready meals or takeaways."
Esmee Russell, of the UK Stroke Association, added: "Being overweight increases your risk of ischemic stroke by 22 per cent, and if you are obese, the risk increases by 64 per cent so tackling obesity is crucial. There are a number of steps we can all take to lower our risk of stroke, including eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise and having a regular blood pressure check."
The research was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2017.
The Daily Telegraph