A study has shown that faster eating behaviour among overweight children could be an inherited trait.
The Cancer Research UK study found that children's eating rate is partly influenced by their genes, and that a faster eating rate is linked to a higher body weight in general.
The fact that faster eating is linked to eating more has been confirmed in previous experiments, but studies making the direct link between a faster eating rate and higher body weight have produced mixed findings.
The research at Cancer Research UK's Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London involved the filming of 254 twins aged 10–12 eating a meal.
The scientists wanted to test whether their speed of eating was related to the amount of fat they carried, and whether eating rate was an inherited characteristic.
Overweight twins were found to eat the fastest, and also to eat more in a sitting.
Lead researcher, Professor Jane Wardle, said: "This twin study suggests that children who eat faster inherit this trait and that it is a worrying risk factor for weight gain, which could potentially be modified in childhood.
"If eating rate can be modified, and if it results in consumption of less food, then early promotion of slower eating for all children could lower the average population weight and help to control current obesity trends."
The study has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.