For weight loss, eat three meals not six mini-meals: study

For weight loss, should you eat six small meals or three larger ones? If you're an obese woman, a new study offers some advice: don't eat like a Hobbit.

While some proselytize the weight-loss benefits of six mini-meals, a slew of prior research says that high frequency eating doesn't boost metabolism and can actually make you fatter. The more times you eat, the more likely you are to overeat, experts say.

Now a new study looks at the debate from a different angle: it examines the insulin and blood fat of obese women who either ate equal calories as either three larger meals or six smaller ones each day over the course of two days. Findings showed that those who consumed three substantial meals had lower blood-fat levels over time, which researchers say could lower their risk of developing heart disease.

"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 the study's lead author Tim Heden of the University of Missouri.

In the research, Heden and his team kept tabs on meal frequency and blood sugar and blood fat levels in eight obese women over two 12-hour periods on two separate days.

All of the women consumed 1,500 calories, with one group consuming three 500-calorie liquid meals while the other group consumed six 250-calorie liquid meals. Researchers tested blood sugar and blood fat levels every 30 minutes.

Their research, announced Thursday, appears in the journal Obesity.

In a 2010 study, researchers from the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa found no weight-loss benefits from higher frequency eating in a study of 16 obese men and women. That study appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Access the new study: http://www.nature.com/oby/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/oby2012171a.html

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