People who are confident, comfortable, and flexible eaters may be less prone to develop cardiovascular disease than those who are not, new research suggests.
According to the Satter Eating Competence Model, developed by registered dietitian Ellyn Satter, competent eaters are aware of hunger and appetite, regularly eat a variety of enjoyable and nourishing food, and eat in harmony with the body's biological tendency to maintain a preferred and stable weight.
Dr Barbara Lohse and two colleagues at Pennsylvania State University in University Park measured cardiovascular disease risk biomarkers and eating competence using the Satter Inventory among 48 healthy men and women aged 21 to 70.
The participants were at risk for cardiovascular disease due to high levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol in their blood. The researchers report in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour that subjects who were not eating competent were five times more likely to have LDL levels above that deemed healthy by the American Heart Association and seven times more likely to have high triglyceride levels, which are also unhealthy.
Those classified as eating competent, on the other hand, often had high levels of "good" HDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure than non-competent eaters.
"Given the significant associations between eating competence and reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, nutrition education interventions that aim to increase eating competence may be beneficial for reduction of risk of cardiovascular disease and related disorders," the Penn State team writes.
They point out that eating competence "is not an isolated attribute but mirrors and integrates the complexities associated with eating behaviors."
The connection with heart health may be "a reflection of differences in personality and perceived stress," given that stress is linked to risk of developing heart disease.
"Paying attention to regular meals and snacks, eating a variety of foods you enjoy and trusting yourself to eat the right amounts may be a good way to start to feel eating competent," Lohse noted in comments to Reuters Health.
The Satter eating competence model "is really just the beginning of a new paradigm for eating behaviour," she added.