Mumbai: Going for dinner with a friend with a big appetite? A new study suggests pacing your food intake after researchers found that people tend to mimic each other's eating behavior, bite for bite.

After observing the eating patterns of 70 pairs of young women, a team of Dutch researchers found that the participants tended to mimic each other's behavior, defined as taking a bite within five seconds of the other's dining companion.

The study was published February 1 on PLoS One.

Over the 20-minute eating period, researchers recorded almost 4,000 bites between the women. Bites separated by more than a five-second lapse were defined as non-mimicry.

Mirroring bites was found to be more common at the beginning of the meal, a trend researchers suggest attributed to a desire to connect socially with their new partner.

But as the meal progressed, the pattern began to decline, the study notes, suggesting that participants became more comfortable with each other.

The latest Dutch study builds on a body of previous research which found that friends could make each other fat. For instance, a US study out of Arizona last year found that factors like eating and exercising together may play a large role in causing friends to gain and lose weight together.

A 2007 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine also found that both obesity and thinness were socially contagious and influenced the social network's body weight: if one person is obese, odds that his or her friends will also become obese increases by 50 percent, the study found.