Does Eating Smaller Meals Have Health Benefits?

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People who eat multiple small meals each day tend to eat healthier and weigh less than those who had fewer, but larger meals, according to a new study. People consuming fewer meals tend to eat mostly at night and to drink alcohol with meals. Both of these practices can contribute to a higher body mass index.

The Study

Dr. Elana Tovar, a clinical dietician at Montefiore Medical Center in New York wasn’t involved in the study, but states, “The major hypothesis that can be taken away from this study is interesting but not so mind-blowing-eating more frequently throughout the day leads to a greater intake of healthier, lower calorically-dense foods, which in turn leads to a lower overall caloric intake and BMI.”

When conversing with Reuters via email, Dr. Tovar added, “This just makes sense-eating more often starves off hunger so that we don’t end up eating whatever we can get our hands on, thereby making it more likely that the foods we eat are healthier.”
Scientific researchers in the United Kingdom, at Imperial College London and in America at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, reviewed information from 2,385 adults from a study that was previously facilitated between 1996 and 1999.

The team found individuals who reported eating less than four times during a 24 hour period had an average BMI of 29, and ate an average of 2,472 calories per day.

A body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal and healthy, while a BMI of between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30.0 or more means a person is obese.

Study participants who ate about six times per day over a 24 period, had an average body mass index of 27.3 and ate an average of 2,129 calories.
People who eat more often throughout the day tended to choose foods that are lower in calories and higher in nutritional value, like vegetables and fruits.

On the other hand, people who ate less than four meals daily had a tendency to consume more calories at night and to consume alcohol too. This pattern of behavior is consistent with meals consumed at restaurants, where foods tend to be fattier, richer and fried.

The authors stated, “Our findings demonstrated that lower BMI levels in more frequent eaters are associated with consumption of lower dietary energy density and higher nutrient quality foods.”

Furthermore the authors noted, “Modifying eating habits through more frequent meals of low dietary energy dense and high nutrient quality may be an important approach to control epidemic obesity.”


Dr. Tovar said, “Although this relationship requires further testing, it seems to support the idea that eating larger meals later in the day may not be doing our waistlines any favors.”

She highlighted the authors of the study’s hypothesis that the effect of meal timing could cause an increased chance of insulin sensitivity later in life.

In closing Dr. Tovar notes, “I would be curious to see more research on this topic in particular, especially because so many people these days are being told by practitioners not to eat after certain times at night without there being much science to back up these arbitrary requests.”


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What does your weekly dinner look like?
The whole family dines together at home
The whole family dines together at a restaurant
Parents and children eat separately
Whoever is around eats together
Every family member for themselves!
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