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This article is from the WebMD News Archive

Modern-day Brits becoming hunter grabbers

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard

20th August 2013 - A survey organised for Gut Week, taken between 3rd and 5th June 2013, found that almost a quarter of people in the UK grab snacks instead of eating three square meals a day, and almost half eat their breakfast or dinner in front of their TV or computer.

Gut Week is the national digestive health awareness campaign, now in its 15h year, and runs from 19th-25th August. The purpose of the initiative from digestive charities CORE (the working name for the Digestive Disorders Foundation) and the IBS Network is to raise awareness of gut health - the health of the digestive system. Every year they've commissioned a survey to study the eating habits of adults in the UK, with 2,000 people participating in this year's survey.

The study has highlighted eating trends among adults living in the UK, which indicate the demise of a relaxed dining time at the kitchen or dining table:

  • 35% eat breakfast in front of their TV
  • 10% eat breakfast in front of their computer
  • 14% eat their breakfast standing up or on the move
  • About 25% eat breakfast in 5 minutes or less
  • Only 6% enjoy a lunch hour away from work
  • 20% eat lunch while at their desk
  • 33% eat lunch in 10 minutes or less
  • 45% prefer watching TV while eating dinner
  • 62% spend as little as 20 minutes eating dinner
  • 23% rush onto the next thing straight away after eating
  • 78% have a snack after dinner at least once a week
  • 10% eat snacks three times a day

Poor eating habits put digestive health at risk

Rushing a meal or eating while feeling stressed can give you indigestion and abdominal spasm.

Dr Nick Read, doctor, psychotherapist and medical advisor to the IBS Network, warns in a statement: "It's important to allow enough time for digestion and to eat at set times. Rushing to finish a meal or snacking 'on the go' can hinder digestion leading to bloating, abdominal pain and bowel upset."

However, some people seem too busy to eat three square meals a day. The survey found that 24% of people in the UK - dubbed 'The Hunter Grabbers' by - were putting the health of their digestive system at risk by forgoing three square meals a day for snacks grabbed twice a day and once after dinner.

The survey also highlighted the increasing trend of people in the UK eating their meals in front of the TV or computer, with a combined 45% of people eating breakfast in this way and the same percentage of people eating their dinner in front of their TV.

Dr Read says: "This now common practice can be problematic as people tend to eat more than they usually would as they're concentrating on the TV, not on what they're eating."

In addition, eating while in a hunched posture can lead to acid reflux and heartburn.

Mealtime eating tips

Dr Read has recommended several top tips for healthier eating:

  • Allow time to eat your meal and relax as you do so. Eating while rushed or feeling stressed will more likely lead to indigestion
  • If you are in a hurry, don't eat fatty meals - fat takes longer to digest than other nutrients
  • A gentle stroll after eating can help your meal go down, but avoid vigorous exercise straight after eating - it can activate the sympathetic nervous system and impair digestion

Reviewed on August 20, 2013

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