Eat Fewer, Larger Meals To Stave Off Obesity And Diabeties

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.

Eating two larger meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is more effective than six smaller meals in a reduced-energy regimen for patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomised crossover study [Diabetologia]


    "While the research was targeted at type 2 diabetic patients, the same principle would presumably apply to all dieters."

    That's a pretty big leap to make. People with type 2 diabetes have very different dietary needs to regular people. I wouldn't take results from a diabetic diet study and apply them to the normal population.

      I'm not saying the metabolic effects would be identical, but it's not like we're talking about a completely different species here. Besides, there's plenty of empirical evidence that suggests fewer, larger meals can control weight gain.

        Any indications on what is better for satiety and actually being a long term sustainable diet though? Otherwise it's a bit useless. You can also loose weight by not eating at all but it isn't sustainable. 6 meals a day helps to keep you feeling full and not wanting to snack so much.

          Yeah I think it's important to remember despite these studies that the best diet is one that you can do. Some people are happier with more frequent smaller meals and some are happier with less frequent larger meals. That preference is far more important to N=1 individual goal achievement.

          These studies are valuable as they help us make informed decisions, however its a mistake to let perfect be the enemy of good.

        Any citations for claim re abundance of evidence for fewer larger meals and controlling weight gain? Post if you have them on hand.

        Last edited 28/05/14 2:04 pm


    ... 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... I don't think that's quite correct actually. I was initially horrified at the thought of people only being allowed 500 cal over a whole day (the equivalent of two peanut butter sandwiches), but after reading the paper I realised they're talking about a restriction of 500 cal a day rather than a total - i.e. (REE×1.5) − 2,092 kJ (where REE = resting energy expenditure).

    Phew. On 500 cal a day I think I'd have to be locked up as a danger to society.

      Thanks for clarifying that, i thought the exact same thing. I agree with you, (I had a quick look at the paper).
      It says that each person had their resting energy requirements checked and then multiplied by 1.5. They were then placed on a diet that was 500cal below their OWN PERSONAL RESTING requirements.

      Last edited 27/05/14 5:16 pm

      Yep, that's clearly misleading as written.

    Shouldn't they have had a control group that was on a similar plan, but with three meals a day? That, and / or shifting the meals around, so that one group had breakfast and lunch, one had breakfast and dinner and another had lunch and dinner.

    Disclaimer: I only (very) briefly skimmed the paper, so that info may have already been in there.

      It's a crossover study, where both groups experience eating 500 calories in two meals and in six meals. The groups will consume one diet for a particular amount of time before switching and doing the other diet for the same amount of time.

      The crossover design essentially allows the groups to serve as their own controls, and it makes sample size smaller as well => less people => less materials to use and less compensation for the participants => cheaper study to implement.

      If it were a parallel study, then sure, a control group with people just eating their habitual diets would be necessary.

        +1 for the explanation! I was more concerned about how this stacks up against people like myself who eat 3 meals a day and wondered if it was time to check out my eating habits :)

          Well, assuming that you are a healthy, normal weight person, this really wouldn't have much bearing on how you would manage your meals from day to day. The results only really apply to those with Type II Diabetes.

          Another trial looking at healthy individuals would need to be conducted to really determine the effect on them - although my gut tells me that the effect found in this study wouldn't be as great in healthy people as those suffering from Type II Diabetes - if any.

    Aside from Hobbits, who actually eats 6 FULL meals a day?

      They weren't eating FULL meals, they were eating the same quantity of food, but in smaller servings more often.

      It's interesting because one of the suggestions often made for losing weight is that you should eat smaller servings more often. The idea is that it keeps your metabolism ticking over, and that as a result you should burn more kilojoules. This study rejects that.

    And this is why working out how we are actually supposed to eat is so confusing, you get this and you also have research that's just as credible saying were better off with more, smaller meals.
    Just like last week they said there actually were no positive heart health effects from red wine, then a cardiac surgeon from Launceston starts looking at the effects of reversatrol from red wine on the heart.

      Yeah, I am completely fatigued by "scientists have found..." type stories. It's like whenever a study reaches its conclusion, a press release is generated and news stories follow.

      But then, how do you make sense of all the contradictions? Tuning out might be the best option.

      That's usually why meta-analyses are conducted - concrete, numerical proof of an effect - if the calculations are done properly!

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