As it often happens with popular science, the media can blow a study out of proportion when the findings look newsworthy. It seems all the excitement over eating six times a day (rather than three) for an increased metabolism falls under that category.
Examine.com, a site dedicated to answering common health questions through aggregated research, looked at a number of studies concerning meal frequency and metabolism. They found almost unanimously that it doesn’t really matter how frequently you eat:
A meta-analysis conducted on eating frequency notes that “studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labelled water to assess total 24 h energy expenditure find no difference between nibbling and gorging. Finally, with the exception of a single study, there is no evidence that weight loss on hypoenergetic regimens is altered by meal frequency. We conclude that any effects of meal pattern on the regulation of body weight are likely to be mediated through effects on the food intake side of the energy balance equation”. A review article conducted assessing 179 abstracts (of which 10 studies were deemed relevant to assess meal frequency and weight loss interactions) found no significant relation between meal frequency and weight loss, albeit calling for more long-term evidence. These results are found in other review articles on the subject matter.
That said, if you like eating smaller amounts six times a day you should still do it. While eating frequently doesn’t seem to provide a metabolism boost, it should keep you from reaching a point of extreme hunger — a feeling that can cause you to overeat.
Effects of eating frequency on metabolic rate [Examine.com]