Two large meals a day tops six mini-meals for weight loss

pork dinner
Pork for dinner? (Credit: Wikipedia / Warren Dew).

Eating two large meals a day yielded more weight loss than consuming six mini-meals with the same number of calories, according to a study that challenges the common wisdom on appetite control.

Over 12 weeks, people with Type 2 diabetes who ate just breakfast and lunch lost an average of 1.23 points in body mass index, or BMI, compared with a loss of 0.82 point for those who ate six smaller meals of the same nutritional and energy content. The data, in a small study involving 54 patients, were presented today at the American Diabetes Association meeting in Chicago.

The study builds on previous results disproving the theory that eating more frequently improves weight loss. That pattern, thought to work because it helps control appetite, was shown to produce no more weight loss than three regular meals in a 2010 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. The latest report eliminates one additional meal.

“Our results support the ancient proverb: ‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper,”’ Hana Kahleova, a researcher at the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague, Czech Republic, said today in a presentation.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A BMI of 30 or higher in an adult is considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For someone who is 5 feet, 9 inches tall, a weight of 203 pounds has a BMI of 30. In today’s study, patients had an average BMI of 32.6.

More than a third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the CDC, putting them at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes. Losing 5 percent to 10 percent of body weight can confer benefits such as improved glucose tolerance, Robert Eckel, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Denver, said yesterday in a presentation at the ADA conference.

In today’s study, sponsored by the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Health, both the frequency of the meals and the timing were important, according to Kahleova. Eating earlier in the day — just breakfast, between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and lunch, between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. — is associated with better results than skipping breakfast, she said.

Two meals a day also led to a greater decrease in liver fat content and a bigger increase in insulin sensitivity than six smaller meals.

“Eating breakfast and lunch is more beneficial than skipping breakfast and eating lunch and dinner, because the fat deposition is bigger in the afternoon and after the evening meal,” Kahleova said.



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