These days, many of us are flooded with advice on what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. Alongside this calorie and nutrient-based advice you may even have heard that you should avoid eating while standing up or lying down, as was common in Ancient Greece or Rome. It may seem to make sense, but how much scientific evidence is there to back this advice?

If we consider these three eating positions: lying down, sitting and standing, what challenges do they present the body with and which should we choose as our standard eating position?

The first of these positions, eating lying down, was fashionable to the ancients. This may not solely have been through laziness or a show of wealth and power – as some researchers have suggested, lying down on your left side reduces the pressure on the antrum or lower portion of the stomach, thus relieving discomfort during a feast. As few of us truly feast nowadays – at least in the Roman sense – this might not be so important.

There is some evidence that we absorb carbohydrates at a slower rate when eating lying down compared to sitting, and this is likely due to the rate of gastric emptying. Slower absorption of carbohydrates is generally considered to be healthy as it avoids large spikes in insulin.

Alternatively, eating lying down may increase the risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD), a condition where the stomach’s contents return back up into the oesophagus through the cardiac or oesophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle that controls the passage of food from the throat to the stomach. This condition is found with increasing prevalence worldwide, and can cause significant discomfort, often being mistaken for a heart attack.

Although there is almost no published research specifically investigating the effect of eating lying down on the symptoms of GORD, the American College of Gastroenterology advises avoiding lying down for two hours after eating, which would suggest that eating lying down itself is probably unwise. As GORD slightly increases the risk of developing more serious conditions including Barrett’s oesophagus and oesophageal cancer, this is probably bad news for those of us who want to adopt the Roman banqueting lifestyle.

Banquet scene from the Casa dei Casti Amanti, Pompeii.WolfgangRieger/Wikimedia Commons

Sitting v standing – the pros and cons

Whether we sit down or stand up for a range of activities throughout the day is a topical issue. Sitting down, which alongside lying down makes up our sedentary behaviour, is increasingly linked to poor health, although there is some contention around this. But when it comes to eating our meals, it seems for once sitting down might be the preferable choice. People might be more likely to take their time over a meal if seated, although this has not been seriously studied. Eating more slowly is considered to be healthy as it more rapidly increases fullness and decreases appetite, leading to a potential reduction in calorie intake.

As for eating while standing up, there is no real evidence that it has any negative effects on digestion and it isn’t included on any lists of prohibited activity by healthcare professionals. Although gravity isn’t needed for most of the function of the gut, it does help with preventing GORD, which is why many sufferers raise the head of their bed at night.
Standing during eating does have the benefit of promoting more energy expenditure, with estimates of around 50 extra calories an hour burned by standing compared with sitting down. Over an extended period this would add up.

So is it better to eat sitting, standing or lying down? While there is not enough scientific evidence to confidently state that eating in either position is more appropriate, it’s likely that as long as you take your time and eat mindfully, either standing or sitting to eat your meals should be absolutely fine and a healthier alternative to eating lying down.

Shape Created with Sketch. The best diets: according to the experts

Show all 10 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. The combination of flexible and vegetarian. This diet is all about adding things to your diet, not taking them away. By adding more tofu, beans, fruits, veggies, eggs, whole grains and seeds to your diet you should feel full on fewer calories. Flickr / Brian

2/10 DASH Diet

Ranked at number one, the DASH diet was developed to prevent and lower high blood pressure by reducing salt intake. Flickr / Dubravko Sorić

3/10 TLC Diet

Created to cut high cholesterol and endorsed by the American Heart Association.

4/10 Mayo Clinic diet

Focuses on everything you were told to eat as a child: whole grains, fruit and vegetables. Flickr / Rochelle

5/10 Mediterranean Diet

Eat as the Mediterranean people do: A diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fats but high in produce and nuts. And lots of olives. Flickr / Meal Makeover Moms

6/10 Weight Watchers

Works with a points system where healthy foods have fewer points. Group meetings offer emotional support and encouragement, meaning it has been a successful program since 1963. Flickr / Mike Mozart

7/10 Volumetrics Diet

Works on the idea that people eat roughly the same amount every day, regardless of the calories. So this diet is all about the approach to eating rather than a structured diet. It divides food into four groups depending on their energy density. For example, more veggies on top of pasta instead of cheese. Flickr / Jennifer

8/10 Jenny Craig

For encouragement, on this diet you get a meal plan and a counselling session every week with a consultant. You get three meals a day, including French toast, but unfortunately you can’t really go out for meals. Flickr / Dennis Wilkinson

9/10 Biggest Loser Diet

Eat regular meals with whole grains, fruit, vegetables and lean protein, get more exercise and keep a food journal. Fairly simple. Flickr / Pete Thomas

10/10 Ornish Diet

Developed by Dean Ornish in his 2007 book “The Spectrum”. He categorizes food in to five groups from most (1) to least (5) healthy. He pinpoints emotional support as a powerful tool for weight loss. Flickr / kris krüg Ranked at number one, the DASH diet was developed to prevent and lower high blood pressure by reducing salt intake. Flickr / Dubravko Sorić Created to cut high cholesterol and endorsed by the American Heart Association. Focuses on everything you were told to eat as a child: whole grains, fruit and vegetables. Flickr / Rochelle Eat as the Mediterranean people do: A diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fats but high in produce and nuts. And lots of olives. Flickr / Meal Makeover Moms Eat regular meals with whole grains, fruit, vegetables and lean protein, get more exercise and keep a food journal. Fairly simple. Flickr / Pete Thomas Developed by Dean Ornish in his 2007 book “The Spectrum”. He categorizes food in to five groups from most (1) to least (5) healthy. He pinpoints emotional support as a powerful tool for weight loss. Flickr / kris krüg

Sitting v standing – the pros and cons

Whether we sit down or stand up for a range of activities throughout the day is a topical issue. Sitting down, which alongside lying down makes up our sedentary behaviour, is increasingly linked to poor health, although there is some contention around this. But when it comes to eating our meals, it seems for once sitting down might be the preferable choice. People might be more likely to take their time over a meal if seated, although this has not been seriously studied. Eating more slowly is considered to be healthy as it more rapidly increases fullness and decreases appetite, leading to a potential reduction in calorie intake.

As for eating while standing up, there is no real evidence that it has any negative effects on digestion and it isn’t included on any lists of prohibited activity by healthcare professionals. Although gravity isn’t needed for most of the function of the gut, it does help with preventing GORD, which is why many sufferers raise the head of their bed at night.

Standing during eating does have the benefit of promoting more energy expenditure, with estimates of around 50 extra calories an hour burned by standing compared with sitting down. Over an extended period this would add up.

So is it better to eat sitting, standing or lying down? While there is not enough scientific evidence to confidently state that eating in either position is more appropriate, it’s likely that as long as you take your time and eat mindfully, either standing or sitting to eat your meals should be absolutely fine and a healthier alternative to eating lying down.

James Brown, Lecturer in Biology and Biomedical Science, Aston University. This article first appeared on The Conversation (theconversation.com)

It seems there’s less and less time to enjoy lunch nowadays. There’s no such thing as the phrase “lunch hour”, even in France, where the traditional three-course meal is being replaced with sandwiches and fast food. If you are in a rush and you grab something quick, there’s a tendency to think that you must at least sit down to eat it, even if that means sitting on the bus while you go to your next appointment. Otherwise surely you’ll get indigestion.

But is this true? When you look at the causes of indigestion or functional dyspepsia, as it’s called in the medical literature, eating standing up doesn’t feature on the list. When likely causes such as stomach ulcers and gastritis have been ruled out, the management of dyspepsia can include changes to lifestyle, but this means eating a healthy diet, giving up smoking and reducing alcohol and coffee consumption. It doesn’t mean sitting down when you eat.

In fact doctors even recommend the opposite, if the pain is caused by acid reflux, when acid from the stomach comes back up into the oesophagus. This is where gravity can help; remaining upright during and after eating can keep the acid down in the stomach where it belongs. For the same reason, patients with reflux are advised to tip the head of their bed up, so that they sleep on a slant.

But there could be another problem with standing up to eat. When we’re standing up we do things faster, hence the brief craze amongst “trendy” companies for installing bar-height tables for standing meetings after a study found that sitting meetings lasted 34% longer. So perhaps the risk of standing to eat is the temptation to gobble your food down – the speed of eating leading to indigestion, rather than the position.

There are very few studies comparing fast and slow eaters, partly because it wouldn’t be easy to randomise people into eating at a particular speed and then to enforce that at every meal. A study from 1994 did include questions about eating speed in a survey of dietary habits. They found the speed at which you believed you ate had no relationship with the frequency of indigestion. Research conducted in 2010 found the same, but these two studies rely on our ability both to judge our eating speed accurately, and to report it honestly.

This problem was overcome in a South Korean study, which timed how long a group of cadets training at the Armed Forces Nursing Academy actually took to finish their meals. With their regimented life where they all woke, ate and exercised at the same time, they were the ideal group of people to study. The one difference in their daily routines was the speed at which they chose to eat. But yet again, if you examine the study in detail, speed of eating seemed to have little effect on indigestion.

So how about the real masters of fast eating, the competitive speed-eaters? An American known as Furious Pete eats quickly for a living and holds four Guinness World Records, the most recent of which involved devouring a twelve inch pizza in 41.31 seconds. Another record holder, this time from Japan, Takeru Kobayashi, can eat fifty-eight Bratwurst sausages in ten minutes. Surely that’s fast enough to give anyone indigestion, but apparently not. Professor Marc Levine, a radiologist at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania x-rayed the stomach of a speed-eating champion after eating 36 hot dogs in ten minutes. The participant was happy to continue after eating 36, but the decision was made to terminate the study for his own safety. He didn’t have indigestion, while the unlucky man who’d volunteered to act as a control, felt sick after seven hot dogs and had to stop. The x-ray showed that the speed-eater had trained his stomach to expand to such an extent that he no longer felt full when he’d eaten.

And this brings us to what could be the problem with eating fast – it’s not indigestion, but the disruption of the usual mechanism that makes you feel full. But even here the evidence is inconsistent. Some studies found that eating fast leaves you feeling hungrier, causing you to eat more. Other studies have shown the opposite.

So next time you don’t have time to sit down for lunch, then don’t feel too bad if you think you are wolfing down your meal too fast. As long as it doesn’t make you feel ill at the time, there doesn’t seem to be any harm in it.

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You can hear more Medical Myths on Health Check on the BBC World Service.

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All content within this column is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The BBC is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site. The BBC is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

Why Shouldn’t You Stand And Eat Food According To Ayurveda?

Ayurvedic practices have many wisdoms pertaining to diet. In addition to the many foods and herbs, Ayurveda also suggests a few ways on how you should have your food, drinks and beverages. You may have heard people say, ‘Sit down and eat. You should never stand and eat’. Turns out, that this particular mode of eating is a significant practice in Ayurveda.

In the present world when you are often too pressed to even grab a meal, taking the luxury of sitting down and having one may seem a tad too much for few. But Ayurveda has its own reasons, on why the practice has its own benefits, and why at least for having food you must allow yourself a good amount of time and a proper place to sit.

You may have heard people say, ‘Sit down and eat. You should never stand and eat’

Ayurveda expert Dhanvantri Tyagi says, “It is not as if eating food while standing has any significant disadvantage to your health. But eating in a proper sit-down arrangement, is a way of showing respect to the food. It is because we have food on our plate that we are alive, hence it must be given all the due respect and not be chugged down in a hurry. There is also a concept of ‘sukoon’ that is very important in Ayurvedic dietary practice. Sukoon roughly translates to happiness, contentment and satisfaction, all of which is possible when you sit and eat.”

(Also Read: Why You Shouldn’t Stand and Drink Water, According to Ayurveda)

Eating in a proper sit-down arrangement, is a way of showing respect to the food

Ayurveda expert and Manager of clinical operations at Shree Baidyanath Ayurveda Bhawan, one of the oldest Ayurveda companies in the world also agrees and adds, ” Another very significant practice we follow in Ayurveda is that of focusing on your plate. Distracted eating is a big no-no in Ayurveda, one must chew their food properly, leave all their stress and commitment aside and eat their food. Sitting down ensures you are little less distracted and draws more of your attention towards what is plated. In ancient practice, people used to sit down on floor and have their meals in ‘sukoon’ for a good span of time. One should never hurry while eating. Several experts have also claimed that when you are sitting and eating your posture is ideal for smooth digestion, and keep gastric problems at bay.”

Not just Ayurveda, the idea of distracted and hurried eating is also condemned by contemporary scientists and experts. It is believed that people, once seated are less likely to rush through their meals. Scientists also say that eating more slowly is considered to be healthy and weight loss friendly, as it rapidly increases fullness and gives you better signal of when you are satiated, which further amounts to a reduced calorie intake.

Therefore, taking some time out of your busy schedule to have your meal may not be that bad an idea.

About Sushmita SenguptaSharing a strong penchant for food, Sushmita loves all things good, cheesy and greasy. Her other favourite pastime activities other than discussing food includes, reading, watching movies and binge-watching TV shows.

Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling

Are you reading this while standing at your desk? There’s a good chance that you are — standing desks are all the rage and the benefits of a standing desk are often talked about.

These desks allow you to work at your “desk job” while standing rather than sitting in a chair. They can be custom built (for thousands of dollars) or you can convert a regular desk into a standing desk at no cost by elevating your computer — one of my colleagues simply placed his computer on a stack of books. Sales of standing desks have soared in recent years; in many cases their sales have far outpaced those of conventional desks.

Personally, I love the idea — rather than sitting all day staring at a computer screen, surely it would be better to be standing (while staring at a computer screen). But, I also love the idea of studying some of the assumptions surrounding standing desks. A common one is this: certainly it takes more effort — and extra calories — to remain upright rather than sit, and over a course of days or weeks those extra calories would add up to something significant. But is it true that one of the benefits of a standing desk is that it can help you avoid weight gain or even lose excess weight?

That’s just what researchers publishing in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health tried to answer. (Yes, there is such a journal.) They fitted 74 healthy people with masks that measured oxygen consumption as a reflection of how many calories they burned while doing computer work, watching TV, standing, or walking on a treadmill. Here’s what they found regarding weight loss as a possible benefit of a standing desk:

  • While sitting, study subjects burned 80 calories/hour — about the same as typing or watching TV
  • While standing, the number of calories burned was only slightly higher than while sitting — about 88 calories/hour
  • Walking burned 210 calories/hour.

In other words, use of a standing desk for three hours burns an extra 24 calories, about the same number of calories in a carrot. But walking for just a half hour during your lunch break could burn an extra 100 calories each day.

Prior reports of the calories burned by standing versus sitting suggested a much higher calorie burn rate for standing, but this new study actually measured energy expenditure and likely represents a more accurate assessment.

Standing desk benefits

While the new study suggests that a standing desk is unlikely to help with weight loss or avoiding weight gain, there may be other benefits of a standing desk.. Advocates of standing desks point to studies showing that after a meal, blood sugar levels return to normal faster on days a person spends more time standing. And standing, rather than sitting, may reduce the risk of shoulder and back pain.

Other potential health benefits of a standing desk are assumed based on the finding that long hours of sitting are linked with a higher risk of

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • cancer (especially cancers of the colon or breast)
  • premature death.

But “not sitting” can mean many different things — walking, pacing, or just standing — and as the new study on energy expenditure shows, the health effects of these may not be the same. For most of these potential benefits, rigorous studies of standing desks have not yet been performed. So, the real health impact of a standing desk is not certain.

If you’re going to stand at your desk…

Keep in mind that using a standing desk is like any other “intervention” — it can come with “side effects.” For example, if you suddenly go from sitting all day to standing all day, you run the risk of developing back, leg, or foot pain; it’s better to ease into it by starting with 30 to 60 minutes a day and gradually increasing it. Setting a timer to remind you when to stand or sit (as many experts recommend) can disrupt your concentration, reduce your focus, and reduce your efficiency or creativity. You may want to experiment with different time intervals to find the one that works best for you.

It’s also true that certain tasks — especially those requiring fine motor skills — are more accurately performed while seated. So, a standing desk may not be a good answer for everyone who sits a lot at work.

What’s next?

We have seen dramatic changes in the work environment in recent years. These include open floor plans and inflatable exercise balls instead of chairs, as well as standing desks. I have colleagues who have installed a “treadmill desk” that allows them to work on a computer or video conference while walking on a treadmill. There are advantages, and perhaps some risk, that come with each of these changes. But, before we accept them as better — or healthy — we should withhold judgment until we have the benefit of more experience and, ideally, well-designed research.

Okay, you may now sit down.

It’s not fun to talk about it, but we’ve all experienced it before–enjoying a nice meal only to regret it later when our stomachs hurt due to indigestion. Some of the symptoms of indigestion include: bloating, belching, gas, burning or pain in the stomach or abdomen, and even nausea. None of these are pleasant, but the good news is that they often can be prevented by taking some simple steps toward better digestion. Here are the top 7 things you can do:

Eat foods containing probiotics, which are good bacteria that can be found in some foods as well as in your digestive tract, where they promote digestive health. Look for yogurts, such as Activa, that are labeled as containing live active cultures of Lactobacillus acidophilus. Other foods that contain probiotics include kefir, buttermilk, and probiotic drinks, such as GoodBelly, which is a line of non-dairy, non-soy and vegan probiotic juice drinks. I recently tried a sample of the GoodBelly Probiotic Coconut Water and loved the flavor.

Do not lie down right after eating. Our bodies are made to digest food in an upright position and lying down while your body is trying to digest food can lead to indigestion. Wait 2-3 hours after a meal before going to bed.

Eat slowly. When you eat too quickly, you actually swallow a good deal of air, which can upset the digestive process.

Make sure you are getting plenty of fiber in your diet, but don’t go from eating very little fiber to lots of fiber overnight as that can lead to gastrointestinal issues. Instead, add more high-fiber foods into your diet slowly and drink plenty of water with them.

Keep a food journal to identify foods that trigger indigestion for you personally. Often foods or beverages that are high in acid, caffeine, or alcohol or that are spicy are trigger foods.

Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes or belts while eating as this can compress the stomach and make heartburn more likely.

Try chewing gum after your meals. It will help to stimulate the production of saliva, which helps to neutralize stomach acid and decreases the likelihood of experiencing indigestion.

If you make these changes, but are still experiencing the symptoms of indigestion, make sure to see your doctor. This could be a sign that the indigestion is a symptom of another problem, such as irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers, or gallbladder disease.

Sit Down While You Eat, or Risk Overeating Later

Apparently, simply sitting down to eat your meal could keep you fuller and more satisfied well after you’ve finished eating. A newly released study suggests that our busy, on-the-go lifestyles could be sabotaging our attempts not to overeat — and that the decline of the sit-down family meal could be to blame for late-night cravings.

Researchers grouped teams of women, having one team eat a pasta dinner while standing and another eat the same carb-filled meal sitting down. After they’d been given time to digest, the women were presented with an array of tempting snack foods — we’re talking M&M’s, animal crackers, cheesy chips… (Seriously, where can we sign up to participate in this study?) Researchers then recorded how much they ate.

Those who ate their dinner standing found themselves grabbing more and more handfuls of snack food later. These results controlled for the participants’ body mass index (BMI), how much they had eaten prior to the study, the timing of their last meal, and even their history of dieting.

The correlation was clear: When they didn’t sit down for a proper meal, the participants didn’t feel as satisfied by their dinner. If you grab a burger on your walk home from work, or stand at your kitchen counter munching while the kids eat, you’re setting yourself up for some killer late-night cravings later.

Eat while standing up

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