Limiting food intake to two large meals per day is more effective at controlling weight gain than spreading the same amount of calories over multiple meals, new research has found. Sticking to a generous breakfast and lunch also helps to keep blood sugars stable in people with type 2 diabetes.
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Researchers from the Prague Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in the Czech Republic analysed 54 patients with type 2 diabetes while following a restricted diet of 500 calories (2092 kilojoules). Half of the participants consumed the full 500 calories over breakfast and lunch, while the other half were given six smaller meals throughout the day. Both diets had the same macronutrient and calorie content.
The study found that body weight decreased more in the group that ate two larger meals; -3.7kg vs. -2.3kg. Liver fat content, fasting plasma glucose and C-peptide levels also decreased further in the breakfast/lunch group.
"Eating only breakfast and lunch reduced body weight, liver fat content, fasting plasma glucose, C-peptide and glucagon, and increased OGIS, more than the same caloric restriction split into six meals," the report explains.
"These results suggest that, for type 2 diabetic patients on a calorie-restricted diet, eating larger breakfasts and lunches may be more beneficial than six smaller meals during the day."
While the research was targeted at type 2 diabetic patients, the same principle would presumably apply to all dieters. In other words, in addition to calculating your energy intake, it could also be worth keeping tabs the frequency and timing of your food intake.