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For obese women, 3 meals a day may be best

U. MISSOURI (US) — Eating three larger meals a day rather than six smaller ones may prove healthier, particularly for women who are obese.

Media articles and nutritionists alike have perpetuated the idea that snacking is a good way to maintain a healthy diet, but new research suggests it might not be as beneficial as previously thought.

“Our data suggests that, for obese women, eating fewer, bigger meals may be more advantageous metabolically compared to eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day,” says Tim Heden, a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri.

“Eating larger meals less often lowered blood-fat levels. 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.”

Heden and other researchers studied how meal frequency affected blood-sugar and blood-fat levels in eight obese women throughout two 12-hour periods on two separate days. All of the women consumed 1,500 calories. During the two different testing days, the participants consumed three 500-calorie liquid meals or six 250-calorie liquid meals. Throughout the 12-hour time frames, researchers tested sugar and fat levels in the women’s blood every 30 minutes. Women who consumed three meals had significantly lower fat in their blood.

“The mass media and many health care practitioners often advocate eating several small meals throughout the day,” Heden says. “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.”

More than one-third of Americans are obese, and these individuals are especially at risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new research, published in the journal Obesity, could help nutritionists and medical professionals develop strategies to improve the health of obese women.

“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,” says co-author Jill Kanaley, professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology.

“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.”

Source: University of Missouri

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  1. emc2

    I never agreed with the advice for eating many small meals. It didn’t feel right. Glad to see it’s finally debunked.

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