Saturday, October 22, 2011

Does Eating More Frequently Help You Lose Weight?

Often patients tell me that they're eating more times each day in order to lose weight. Some dietitian (certainly not the one in our practice) or some friend told them that they needed to eat 3 times or maybe 6 times a day to lose weight.

Other people try to eat by the clock, every 4 hours, at least while awake, even if  they’re not hungry. They think that by eating more frequently they will lose weight.

So what about it? Does eating more frequently help you lose weight?

Surprisingly little research has been done on meal frequency. But from the evidence there is, in answer to the question “does eating more frequently help you lose weight?” I can state emphatically NO!

It is total calorie intake that is key. Clinical trials in children and adults show that if anything eating more frequently, say 6 times versus 3 times a day, leads to increased calorie intake, weight and appetite.

Higher protein intake does appear to improve satiety or, stated another way, more protein in the diet appears to reduce appetite. I discussed this a little in an earlier post.

So if you feel best eating 2 meals a day, say a late breakfast and a supper, that’s fine. 
You should not need to work in snacks or extra meals in order to lose weight.
There are also no good studies that demonstrate that eating 3 meals a day is superior to two meals a day for weight loss. 

In my experience, those patients who tend to not feel hungry in the morning and skip breakfast are those who tend to eat from supper to bedtime.                They eat so much late at night that it is not surprising that they are not hungry in the morning.
When they eat nothing after supper, they usually wake up hungry.

So, I have 3 take away principles below. And these hold for people with diabetes too. If you have to eat more than you prefer to because of your diabetes medications, that means you need your medications changed.

1. Eat when you’re hungry.
2. Don't eat when you’re not hungry.
3. Don't eat more frequently each day with the hope that this will help you lose weight. The evidence indicates it will not.

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