Dear Mark: Palmitic Acid and Eating Speed

Speed EatingFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m discussing the seemingly evil qualities of palmitic acid, the preferred storage form of body fat in humans and many other mammals. Studies seem to indicate that pure palmitic acid has negative health effects, so should we be avoiding palmitic acid-containing foods like butter, meat, or palm oil? Then, I explain the health effects of eating really fast. As you’ll see, there are quite a few reasons to eat more slowly than quickly. I also include a few tips for fast eaters who want to slow down.

Let’s go:

Hey Mark,

This is something I have been trying to get to the bottom of recently. I have been reading about different saturated fatty acids and their effects on the body. One that always comes up is Palmitic acid. I read that “Palmitic acid is one of the most damaging fats, second only to trans fats in its list of negative health effects” and the same goes for myristic acid. Normally I would dismiss these sorts of claims, but it came from somebody who knows that saturated fats aren’t correlated with heart disease, so this person isn’t in the whole “saturated fats are evil” club.

I would really like to hear your views on this Mark, if some saturated fats are actually harmful, or if it just outdated science.



Ah yes, dastardly palmitic acid. So evil, so toxic that it’s the body’s preferred storage form of energy. Kind of like how we make cholesterol in order to clog our arteries and give ourselves heart disease, our livers convert energy into palmitic acid to commit long, slow, agonizing suicide and develop diabetes. Makes sense.

I certainly love to cook with palmitic acid. Unfortunately, the refined, isolated palmitic acid doesn’t exist in nature, so I got a fancy fractionation machine sitting on my counter that separates the various fatty acids. It works great. Plop in some butter and let the centrifuge spin, spin, spin until the isolated palmitic acid comes out ready to be used.

I’m kidding, of course. The point is that if you take a look at the literature you’ll find evidence that while isolated palmitic acid has some negative effects, palmitic acid mixed with other types of fatty acids and nutrients – also known as food – has a very different effect. In other words, palmitic acid gets an undeserved bad rap. So what does the research show?

1. Palmitic acid lowers expression of the LDL receptor gene. Less LDL receptor activity, more time for LDL to hang around in the bloodstream and cause trouble. That’s not good.

Exceptmodicum of oleic acid stimulates LDL receptor activity.

2. Palmitic acid is toxic to skeletal muscle cells, impairing glucose uptake and increasing insulin resistance. I for one like my muscle cells to have the ability to accept glucose, so maybe I’ll stop eating palmitic acid.

But arachidonic acid, a polyunsaturated fat found in animal products often alongside palmitic acid, prevents this lipotoxicity.

3. Palmitic acid induces inflammation and disrupts insulin signaling, early signs of diabetes. We don’t want diabetes, so we should probably stop eating any palmitic acid, right?

Except that introducing a little bit of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat almost invariably found alongside palmitic acid in the animals we eat (or in the olive oil we use to dress our meat), completely obliterates the inflammation.

Heck, even if we do manage to isolate and choke down enough pure palmitic acid to cause problems, our livers can modify some of it to produce oleic acid, thus negating any potential negative effects.

Physiology is quite a thing, huh? It’s amazing how well simply eating food in its natural state and letting your body take care of the rest works. It’s only when we upset the natural order by engaging in biologically inappropriate activities like drinking two sodas a day plus sweet junk food while sitting down for twelve hours a day with a glycogen-replete liver, thus prompting the liver to convert sugar into palmitic acid for storage and circulation because there’s nowhere else for the fructose to go.

I don’t know about you, but the fact that we “choose” to store it as palmitic acid seems to suggest that it’s not the dangerous toxin we’ve been led to believe it is.

Hi Mark,

I have a weird problem 🙂 I tend to be a very fast eater (speed at which I eat). As a result, even though I stick to primal foods, I tend to overeat by the time my appetite is satisfied.

I am sure there would be a few others like me who tend to have this problem. Would you have any tips on how one could slow down the speed of eating? It sounds like a simple problem – but just like any other bad habits, fast eaters have built it over a lifetime which makes changes difficult.

Appreciate your response. Thank you for all the great work you do that helps millions of people worldwide 🙂



Eating speed is absolutely a factor in health. To date, most of the research has focused on the links between eating speed and obesity, with fast eating being associated with higher body weight in middle aged womenmiddle aged men, and teenagers.

There’s evidence the link is causal. One study followed fast eating school age girls from fourth to seventh grade. Those who speed ate in fourth grade and continued to eat quickly through seventh grade gained the most weight, body fat, waist size, and waist-to-height ratio. Those who ate quickly in fourth grade but slowed down in the ensuing years had normal weight measures. Another study found that retraining fast-eating obese adolescents to eat more slowly improved their satiety responses to carbohydrates and reduced body weight.

That’s the big one, as you’ve noticed, Abhi: eating so fast that you outpace your own satiety signaling. Fast eaters tend to overeat, showing less satisfaction with their food despite eating way more of it.

Relationships between fasting eating and type 2 diabetes have also been found, even when adjusting for family history of diabetes, BMI, waist circumference, and activity level.

What can you do? Well, “don’t eat so fast” is obvious but mostly unhelpful advice. What are some more concrete tips a fast eater can try?

Eat with others. When you sit down (or stand) to a meal with friends, business associates, significant others, kids, or any other sentient being capable of engaging in conversation, you have something else to focus on – the other person.

Eat food that requires work. I enjoy a good amorphous multicolored mash of six different ingredients as much as anyone, but food like that lends itself to speed eating. Favor foods that require some cutting. Think meat on the bone, whole steaks, chops, and the like. Try to limit foods you can eat with a spoon, in other words.

Eat at the table. Your body needs to “know” you’re eating a meal, and that means sitting down at a table with actual plates, silverware, and even companions. If you’re driving while eating, standing in front of the open fridge digging through tupperware to snack, or grabbing a “bite” while “on the run,” you’re not creating the meal environment your body needs.

Eat when hungry, not when ravenous. You want to spice your food up with a dash of hunger, not dump the entire jar onto your plate.

Don’t eat in front of the TV. You’ll zone out and mindlessly shovel food into your mouth at breakneck speed.

Chew more. The more you chew, the more time each bite spends in your mouth, the slower you eat. Plus, there’s the possibility that better-chewed food will get digested more quickly and register in your brain as having been eaten sooner than partially chewed food. Some research points at 35 chews per bite (compared to 10 chews per) as optimal for reducing food intake, extending meal time, and increasing satiety.

Put the fork down in between bites. If you’ve got a fork in your hand all the time, of course you’re going to use it. So keep it out of your hand until it’s absolutely needed.

Practice mindful eating. Savor every bite. Observe the flavors and textures. Pinpoint individual ingredients. Consider absolutely everything about each piece of food entering your mouth, and ruminate deeply on your observations. I’m sure most of you will find satisfying all these practices somewhat exhausting, but being even a bit more mindful will slow you down.

Buy a Vibrafork. I poked fun at them last week, but they actually do exist.

Good luck!

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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73 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Palmitic Acid and Eating Speed”

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  1. I’d also throw in “eat with your non-dominant hand” or “eat with chopsticks” to help slow yourself down. As an added benefit, you get to develop your non-dominant hand’s dexterity or develop a skill like using chopsticks.

    1. I like the eat with the non-dominant hand. Now if I tried chopsticks with the non dominate hand, I would starve to death.

      1. I got a vision of food flying out of the chopsticks across the table….. thanks for the chuckle.

      2. I’ve actually done that! I got stuck at a round table in a Chinese restaurant where everyone else at the table was a lefty. Fortunately I’m close to ambidextrous, so switching over slowed me down only a little more than just eating with chopsticks does.

        I really need to use chopsticks more. I’m a long-time speed eater. My survival in grade school depended on getting in, getting my food, eating, and getting the heck out before my classmates had time to settle in to serious torment.

      3. Great idea, thanks. I’m going to try the non-dominant hand. And, maybe chopsticks for the dominant one.

    2. I switched to eating almost exclusively with chopsticks a few months ago, and it has transformed me from a lifelong speed eater to a much slower eater well paced eater (I am now almost always the last one finished eating in our family of 5).

      I am quite good with them at this point, but even being proficient with chopsticks slows you down considerably compared to using a fork and/or spoon.

      I heartily recommend this practice to any other speed eaters out there trying to slow themselves down.

      1. Hmmmm… I wonder how big a confounder chopsticks are in all those “rice is good for you” studies?

        1. I lived in Japan for a while, and believe me once you get the hang of chopsticks you can practically shovel food down the hatch with them. They only slow you down during the learning process.

          Hence I’ve been chuckling at the “eat with copsticks to slow you down” advice for years.

      2. I don’t think chopsticks help. Koreans eat really fast and they use chopsticks. I have also mastered eating with chopsticks and it doesn’t affect my speed in the least.

    3. Chopsticks slow people down? You haven’t ate with my Chinese in-laws!!! Hahaha!

    4. Better yet, eat with your non-dominant hand using a pair of vibra-chopsticks!

  2. Father time will slow you down. I use to wolf my food down and have a hollow leg. I still manage to eat too much too quickly but once you get on the wrong side of 40 you’ll cut out the eating like a teenager.

  3. Not only does the TV invite you to shovel it in mindlessly, but so does the computer! Also, I picked up the quick eating habit from working–when you only have 30 minutes to eat lunch, it’s gotta be quick, close, and (if bringing it from home) non-perishable.

    Now that I’m fat-adapted, i could probably easily skip lunch these days. I skip breakfast now as it is.

    1. I certainly believe this to be true, anecdotally. I grew up in a large family where we fought for “seconds” AND I learned to eat “double-time” in Army Basic Training. I’ve met many other speed-eaters that were in the military at one time. It’s a hard habit to break!

  4. During my military service I learnt the phrase “transfer the food to stomach.” That’s how I still eat although it has been ten years since my military service.

  5. Eat with others but not those who devour their dinner in two minutes.

    Where do fat kids learn to eat fast? From their fat speed-eating parents.

    The reason for this, of course, is easily explained by two things: parents need to get back to their sofa to watch Honey Boo Boo.

    Bambinos, on the other hand, need to run back to their playstations.

    1. So judgmental! Not everyone who eats fast is fat, and not everyone who is fat eats fast.

      1. And not everyone who is fat is that way because they’re sitting on the couch watching reality TV. In fact, isn’t this entire website built on the concept that the most widely spread “science” about not being fat is in fact just plain wrong? Thus the majority of overweight individuals got that way from SAD advice, none of which includes eating fast or sitting in front of the TV.

        1. I almost exclusively eat while watching TV or playing video games and I have found it actually slows me down. I take a bite, put my plate/bowl down, put my fork down, take a sip of water and if I’m watching TV take another bite in a few minutes or if I’m playing games in between rounds of Call of Duty.

          Also, I am 6’3″, 216 lbs, and about 11% body fat.

          My key to not overeating, regardless of speed, is to cook 4 servings only for dinner: 2 for me and my fiance @dinner and 2 for us for lunch the next day.

  6. Abhi,
    I had a similar problem. I started having a high fat snack to start my meals, like a spoon of coconut oil or a serving of nuts or avocado. It started the process of telling my body I was satiated. I found I ate less and enjoyed the rest of my meal more.

  7. Same here. I was forced to speed-eat in Basic Military Training. Never learned to slow it back. It’s been 15 years now!

    Also, did anyone else notice the title of this article sounds like it’s about illicit drug use? Ha.

    1. That’s exactly what I thought, I was thinking Mark was going to tell us to give up injecting and trying a more primal approach to illegal drug taking!

  8. This is something I struggle with every day. If I’m not concentrating on it, I’m just eating way too fast and, just like Abhi says, I’ve eaten too much before the sense of satiety kicks in.

    I’ve definitely found that mindful eating helps, but you have to concentrate and keep your conscious mind in play. Add something like television or a conversation to divert my conscious mind and the subconscious takes over again and I’m eating very fast.

    I find intermittent fasting helps. As soon as I start eating in the day, I’m in danger of mindlessly eating a lot and quickly. These days I never start eating until after midday and often not until late afternoon/evening. I’m not tempted to eat at all until I break the fast and then I have less time to try and control my subconscious urges.

    Another trick is to never eat things from a large pack, for example with cashews. If I take a large pack and just think I’ll eat a few, I end up eating way more than I thought. It’s better if I put everything I want to eat on a plate and then sit down and try and slowly eat it. I do this with nuts and dried fruits that I want to eat. When I see it on a plate it looks like a lot and there’s less chance I’ll go back for more because I know I’ve had enough.

    Main thing for me is to try and use my conscious mind to keep watch on what my subconscious wants to do if it has half the chance.

    1. Totally with you on the cashews or any nut for that matter! I have a small little mason jar that’s about a 2 oz serving of nuts that I use now. Really helps me “see” what I’m eating and not have too much.

  9. Don’t put so much food on your plate. Eat a small amount, see if your still hungry, only then go back for more. Or don’t make so much food and, if your still hungry at the end, have a piece of cheese. I dislike wasting food!

  10. I find that reading scientific studies while eating REALLY slows me down…. I spend so much time trying to digest the science that I forget about the food….

  11. Growing up I was the “anti-fast eater” I took FOREVER to eat most of the time. I didn’t like eating, wasn’t usually hungry. My parents would set the timer, everyone had left and I was eating what was on my plate to prevent little children in other parts of the world from starving …… I was skinny, I guess the slow eating thing worked for me. I’m paying for my slow eating because my son eats slow as well, he is skinny too. I’m sad that his school doesn’t let them take time to eat lunch, it’s “gape and swallow” and move out! They even take your food and throw it away if you take too long. Ugh. At least I try to keep him full on fat so that it’s not an emergency and we feed him when we pick him up. He made the choice to eat a primal meal for lunch today, yay Parmesan chicken!

    1. I hear you on the school lunch thing. My daughter (who is in kindergarten) is a really slow eater. At home she eats a little, talks and walks around, eats some more, etc. At home it can take her an hour to eat a normal meal. Drives me crazy because I am a super fast eater, lol. Anyway, at school the kids literally have 20 minutes or less to eat their lunches. It is insane. I don’t think she has ever finished one of her lunches this entire school year. I ask her every day why she didn’t eat it all and every day she says she didn’t have enough time.

      1. Ugh, yes. When I was in high school there were 3 lunch periods, and each lasted 20 minutes. They did it that way because all the kids couldn’t fit in the cafeteria at once. Eventually they started giving us a longer lunch period & allowing off-campus lunches, but this can’t have improved anyone’s health, since all the kids left to get fast food.

        In elementary school, we ate at long tables & when lunch was over, everyone would shove their trays toward the end of the table, until eventually they’d all fall into a garbage can that had been placed there. My parents thought this was revolting when they found out about it. Also, if it got too loud in the lunchroom, the cafeteria monitors would yell at us & make everyone sit in silence. This stuff must be maddening to parents who are trying to teach their kids to eat & converse in a civilized way at the dinner table!

  12. Speed eater here. If I really love a meal, I devour it. Probably not going to change.

    1. I’ve read studies where people who wolf their food down have many more stomach problems. My cousin died at 51 from stomach cancer. We would still be putting mustard on the hamburger and he had 2 burgers finished. Usually nobody saw him eat that fast because they were trying to fix their own plate. If you caught him, it was really strange to see. Unbelievable really.

    2. Same here. Grew up with Dad and 2 brothers. Who ever finished dinner last had to wipe table, clean dishes and sweep the floor. I rarely if ever had that chore. I was the oldest of three with no more than 3-1/2 years from eldest (me) to youngest. Alas, our youngest brother, a procrastinator, was usually the last one to finish. Unfortunately, years later at 57, still eating fast.

  13. There are smartphone apps you can use. I have one on my iPhone called “Eat Slower.” You can adjust the timer and it beeps every 30 seconds (or 60, or 90, etc). I never have thought of myself as a speed eater, but waiting for 1 minute to go by was torture! Although I don’t use it all the time, it is a good reminder to just slow down a bit!

  14. Some people are trained to eat fast like those in the military. Efficiency in eating during battle is very important and they are trained to be efficient. One thing I found helpful was to not cut all my food up at once. Smaller forkfulls helped too. Another thing that might help is to put a timer on to help with pacing. Or reading a book at the same time.

  15. Another way to slow down eating is to break the meal into courses, with 5-10 minutes between each.

  16. In response to the first question, it should be noted that there IS some evidence that saturated fat is strongly correlated with cardiovascular disease. For those who have been completely convinced that saturated fat is A-OK, I highly suggest you read up on Dr. Thomas Dayspring’s work, specifically on Lecture Pad, case 291. It appears as if a subset of the population (he is speculating around 33%) will experience dramatic increases in LDL-P with high levels of saturated fat intake. He also goes on to say that this is the case regardless of increases in HDL and drops in TG, and that the PRIMARY driving of LDL across the intima of the blood vessel, is the concentration of LDL-P… regardless of other numbers. That said, all of us playing around with ketosis (me) and increasing our saturated fat intake (also me) need to routinely have our blood tested to be sure we are not one of that 33%. Best of luck all! GROK ON!

      1. i totally agree. regardless, the jury is still out on whether high fat diets are appropriate for all. i suggest you read the case study. after the women reduced her saturated fat intake, her LDL dropped back into the 20% percentile. i should note that Thomas Dayspring is one of Peter Attia’s mentors; in other words he is at the forefront of studying ketosis, HFLC diets, paleo, etc and is often quoted in defense of.

        bottom line: some may be at risk and not know it. better to have regular blood testing to be sure one is not spiking LDL-P to dangerously high levels.

        1. Dayspring is referring not the LDL itself, but to the protein which carries it. According to his work, regardless of LDL size, or other factors at play, large increases in the protein (LDL-P) is THE major driving force across the intima leading to subsequent foamy cell macrophages, fatty streaks, and future atherosclerotic plaques. This is regardless of size. Concentration of LDL-P is THE MAJOR driving force. I’m not making this up. And this is a point being missed by many, including myself up until I started reading his work. Most folks in ketosis or on a paleo diet will not be affected by their large saturated fat intake, but a good percentage may very well be a risk. ? is a lot IMO. This really needs to be brought to attention. I wish it weren’t a problem (I love me my bacon!) but it’s not as clear cut as many in the community are making out to be. Saturated may still be dangerous, for SOME.

    1. Good point I am one of the 33% i think, i ate butter, heavy cream and coconut oil and plaintain chips cooked in palm oil for a good while about 2 years and when my cholesterol was tested the ldl was 201 and ldl-p 2484! I have now cut the dairy butter and cream and and it seems to be going down. Not as fast a the woman in the Dayspring case. I eat saturated fat still but i have cut back and am watching it

    1. I had the same thought JR! Where do you live? Maybe we can be enjoy a chronically single meal together 🙂

      1. Charlotte NC! We finally have a paleo meetup group so hopefully that turns into something.

  17. Eat food that is still hot (I don’t mean spicy) so you have no choice but to wait for it while eating. This really helps me. Here in Korea they often serve you food that is in a hot pot, it is sooo nice to watch it still cooking and at the same time you can’t just go too fast so you need to take some in your spoon and wait for it to cool a bit before you put it in your mouth. Although some Koreans don’t mind eating it really fast while it is still hot, no idea how they do it.

  18. I eat really fast but not much. I think it is because I usually just had a cup of tea and that fills me up.

  19. I’ll make sure I eat slower now. I’ve always eaten like if I was in a rush (at least that’s what people tell me) and I never knew there was a relation with that and bodyweight, good article

  20. Correct me if wrong but eating Palmitic acid isn’t the problem. It’s when excess carbs turns into Palmitic acid, that’s the problem.

  21. I must be an aberration because I’ve eaten fast since I was a child and I’ve never been able to overeat. My parents use to tell me to slow down so I could eat more. The faster I eat, the less I’m able to eat, even when I ate junk many moons ago. My dog eats pretty fast too…and my goats…and my chickens…

  22. i am a fast eater too. my whole family is. i wonder, did grok eat slowly? did he sit at the table and chew each mouthful mindfully? could it be that eating fast is a survival mechanism?

  23. One can do what we do with horses who eat too fast (bolt their food). You place a super-big rock in their food bowl so they have to push it around with their muzzle in order to get to their grain. It slows their eating down considerably.

  24. I re-soled my dress shoes with a new leather sole but no heel – the guy at the repair shop thought I was nuts! They’re not like Vibrams but they’re now zero drop, a lot more comfortable and look CW fashionable.

  25. I’ve worked with some people who have been in the military (forced to eat very quickly) and what helped them was counting their chews. Could work here, too!

  26. I have an interesting tip to slo down eating that actually INVOLVES the T.V.!

    Sit in front of it with your meal but ONLY eat while the show is on. So, during commercials (and we all know there are too many of those), your fork (or spoon, or chopsticks, or whatever) is out of your hand and for those three to five minutes your body is registering the food you just ate. And then, when the show resumes, if you’re still hungry, keep eating. Repeat this cycle until you are properly full.

  27. I am not a fast eater, but I’m a comfort eater and prone to taking second helpings that I really don’t need. I read somewhere that you should plate your portion then pack up the rest in containers (lunch for tomorrow!) and put it in the fridge before sitting down to eat. Then it’s too much trouble to get up for seconds. I have found it very helpful.

  28. Even when I consciously eat slow and whole heartedly attempt to not be the first person finished , I still am , maybe I’m just good at eating.

    My grandmother is a master of slow eating take half a bite of food talk for 10 min. , take a second full bite of food talk for 15 min. , third bit of food talk for 5 min.

  29. I’m a fast eater myself. Fast-paced jobs frequently force people to shovel food into their mouths to get it down in that 15-minute paid break. I for one have been happier and have noticed more satiety before finishing everything on my plate when I chew slow, engage in conversation (or maybe read an article on MDA), and put down the fork (or the several bite-size finger foods, or even the red wine!) so I don’t keep overeating. Great question!

  30. Perhaps one other tool for fast eaters as they learn the success-inducing techniques above) is to be sure that if their speed of eating is limited due to a real time constraint, maybe they can keep extra-small portions of healthy snacks to eat during those parts of the day where they are likely to zip through food (like that 15-minute break).

  31. One tip I read about years ago, which has really helped me slow down my eating, is to hum to yourself the Simon & Garfunkel song: “Slow down, you move too fast, you want to make the moment last.”

    You could change it to “you chew too fast,” but the concept is the same.

  32. it’s easy not to overeat due to speed eating. plan the meal and put on your plate just enough to make your hunger go away but not to fill you completely. then go ahead and eat it at any speed you want 🙂 then drink a big glass of water or green tee and leave the table.

  33. How to eat slower? Frozen food. This may not be that practical but I’ve been forced to eat slower by eating stuff that was frozen. I did a marathon walk from one town to another last winter to get back to my campsite without bringing any food along and of course when I got there all my food (mostly fall-back food) was frozen so I was chipping away at canned beans. Often my food would freeze because the temperature was almost always sub-zero that winter so I’d have to keep cans of sardines in my coat overnight to thaw, and my water bottles to prevent them from freezing. It was kind of thrilling, and was running out or mostly running out of food a few times. Nothing like an enforced fast when you usually lack the willpower to avoid extra calories.

  34. As far as eating speed goes, I think that it is important to make eating a social event which includes conversation. I don’t mean like the average BBQ, in which people tend to take more food on their plate than normal and where they ALWAYS go back for more. I mean, turn the lights low, maybe with candles mimicking the light of a campfire, and eat with someone else, whom you enjoy chatting with, if at all possible, putting your fork down between bites.

    Eating “mindfully” can be important but it MAY be that if you don’t have an eating partner that listening to an interview on NPR or a podcast can mimic the psychological involvement of a conversation.

    If not listening to a podcast then slow, paced background music (slow jazz) can slow you down in turn.

    Also, drink something (non-sweet)… like water, decaf coffee or tea or even wine or beer on occasion… just not soda or juice… something you can nurse.

  35. Are you a fan of ketogenic diet, or should I say ketogenic lifestyle? What do you think about this method of eating?