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Smaller, More Frequent Meals Not Best For Obese Women

December 7, 2012
Image Credit: Gts / Shutterstock

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Scientists from the University of Missouri (MU) recently discovered that, for obese women, consuming fewer, larger meals could reap more health benefits. The researchers looked at the differences between consuming three substantial meals as opposed to consuming six small meals for obese women. They discovered that, for obese females, the three substantial meals lead to a reduction in the risk of developing heart disease.

The findings on the advantages and disadvantages of all-day snacking were recently published in the journal Obesity.

“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,” explained the study´s lead author Tim Heden, a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at MU, in a prepared statement. “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.”

The researchers looked at the impact of meal frequency on blood-sugar and blood-fat levels for eight obese females during two 12-hour periods on two different days. All the participants ate 1,500 calories and, during the two testing days, the participants either had three 500-calorie liquid meals or six 250-calorie liquid meals. Then, every 30 minutes during the 12-hour time frames, the team of investigators measured the sugar and fat levels of the women´s blood. They discovered that women who had consumed three meals had lower levels of fat in their blood as compared to the female participants who had six small meals.

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

Based on the results of the study, the team of investigators recommends that obese women attempt to have three balanced meals on a daily basis.

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

The researchers believe that the results of the study can be of use to nutritionists and medical professionals who are looking to create strategies that can boost the health of obese females. As well, the research findings are timely as many adults in the U.S. are currently suffering from obesity. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one-third of individuals in the U.S. are obese. Those who are obese have higher risk for heart disease.


Source: Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online