It is widely believed that eating several small meals throughout the day is better for weight loss than a few large ones. However, new research is showing evidence that refutes this idea. Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that fewer, larger meals might be the best choice for dieters, especially obese women.
The lead author of the study, Tim Heden, and his team studied the blood-sugar and blood-fat levels of eight obese women over two 12-hour periods. Each of the women consumed 1,500 calories. One day they had three 500 calorie liquid meals while on the other they had six 250 calorie liquid meals, and the level of fat and sugar in their blood was tested every 30 minutes. The results showed that the women who consumed fewer meals had significantly less fat in their blood.
“Eating larger meals less often lowered blood-fat levels,” said Heden. “Over time, consistently eating fewer, larger meals each day could lower the women’s blood-fat levels and thereby lower their risk of developing heart disease.” Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. As obesity is a factor in heart disease, any action an obese person can take to lower their risk of developing heart disease is worthwhile.
Heden decided to study the effect of meal size and frequency on obese women because there wasn’t much research available to support the idea that frequent smaller meals are beneficial. His findings challenge the opinions that are popular today, laying the groundwork to debunk a dietary myth. There are many other dietary myths circulating these days. Knowing fact from fiction can help you be as effective as possible in maintaining a healthy weight.
Should You Eat at Night?
A common refrain in the dieting world is that you should stop eating three hours before you go to bed. However, there are not any major studies that prove that eating at night is detrimental. This myth may come from the fact that eating breakfast is linked to lower weight. However, calories are calories no matter when you eat them. Eating a heavy meal right before bed may impact your ability to sleep, but it will not lead to any more weight gain than it would if you ate the same meal at breakfast.
Should You Avoid Fat?
Fat has long been demonized in the diet industry, but there is no reason to avoid it. Fat is an essential part of our diet. Just like proteins and carbohydrates, it should be consumed in moderation. However, you do need to be careful about the types of fats you consume. Mono- and polyunsaturated fats (the types found in fish and some oils) are healthy and necessary, and there is no reason to avoid saturated fat in moderation. However, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils are major contributors to heart disease and should be avoided whenever possible.
Does High Fructose Corn Syrup Cause Weight Gain?
In 2003 researchers noticed that obesity was rising at the same time as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was becoming more common. They theorized that the body metabolizes corn syrup differently than sugar. A recent study has confirmed this hypothesis, with researchers finding that fructose affects the area of the brain that controls appetite, dampening the satiety response, and does not reduce levels of appetite-inducing ghrelin in the blood the way that glucose does. So definitely try to avoid the HFCS and consume sugar only in small quantities.
Meal Frequency and Overeating
While Tim Heden’s research shows that meal frequency can have an effect on blood-sugar and blood-fat levels, there is another reason why dieters may want to eat less often. “With multiple meals throughout the day, you have to be careful. If you start consuming several meals, there’s more potential to overeat or to make unhealthy snack choices with easily accessible junk food,” said Jill Kanaley, co-author of the University of Missouri study. “The more times you sit down to eat, the more calories you’re probably going to take in.”
Eating more often makes it easier to consume unhealthy foods. Sticking to a few larger meals reduces the temptation to grab a snack that is quick, easy, and fattening. Eating fewer meals is easier for many people, and with the emerging proof that it is healthier it may soon become the preferred choice.