When obese women ate either three meals a day or six mini meals, three squares resulted in faster weight loss, a new study finds.
Eating three larger meals — not six mini meals — might be healthier, researchers from the University of Missouri report in the journal Obesity.
In a small study, three substantial meals a day lowered the obese participants’ blood fat levels, suggesting that this technique could decrease a person’s risk of developing heart disease over the long term.
Lead author Tim Heden, a doctoral student in the department of nutrition and exercise physiology, had eight study participants consume 1,500 calories a day, either through three 500-calorie liquid meals or six 250-calorie liquid meals. Throughout the different testing days, researchers tested blood sugar and fat levels in the women every 30 minutes. Women who consumed three meals had significantly lower fat levels in their blood.
“The mass media and many health care practitioners often advocate eating several small meals throughout the day,” Heden said in a university release. “However, when we examined the literature, we didn’t find many studies examining or supporting this popular claim. This lack of research led to our study, which is one of the first to examine how meal frequency affects insulin and blood-fat levels in obese women during an entire day of eating.”
Mini meals often don’t work for dieters because there’s more potential to overeat and surpass a set daily calorie budget, researchers say. “Some people are good at making efforts to eat healthy snacks; however, most people aren’t, and they end up taking in too many calories. The more times you sit down to eat, the more calories you’re probably going to take in,” explained study co-author Jill Kanaley, PhD.
Some researchers support the idea of mini meals because they believe it helps maintain blood sugar throughout the day — helping dieters avoid hunger pains and blood-sugar crashes that can lead to overeating.
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