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Does Eating More Frequently Actually Aid in Weight Loss?

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It’s myth-busting time. Attention dieters: eating several small meals instead of three big meals throughout the day probably will not speed up your metabolism.

Although the hype right now tells us to snack rather than eat full meals, an article on nytimes.com revealed we may be falling for yet another diet deception.

A 2009 study by the British Journal of Nutrition found that groups consuming the same number of calories per day will lose about the same amount of fat, experience equal control over their appetites and have similar hormone measurements that signal hunger and satiety.

In the study, groups of overweight individuals took on a low-calorie diet for eight weeks. One group ate only three meals a day and the other ate six, but they all consumed the same number of calories.

According to the New York Times article, if people want a more “reliable metabolic boost,” they should try good old-fashioned exercise.

Gary Schwartz, a researcher with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said in an article by MedicineNet.com, “There’s no strong data supporting either (three meals a day or six meals a day) as being more effective (for weight loss).”

Schwartz added that dieters should instead focus on reducing overall caloric intake by “decreasing meal size and/or decreasing meal frequency.”

However, a 2001 study by The British Medical Journal showed people who ate six small meals per day had a five percent lower average cholesterol level than people who ate a couple of larger meals.

Becky Hand, a registered and licensed dietitian, explained, “When you eat regularly throughout the day, your body knows that more food is on the way, and it’s more likely to burn the calories you consume than store them as fat.”

Although one study did reveal a slight improvement in health resulting from the “frequent snacking” diet, women should realize the theory still lacks well-researched proof. Hand said eating more frequently to help with weight control “could potentially benefit your health, but not necessarily.”

To reach weight loss goals, women should simply find a consistent, healthy eating schedule that works for them. Hand explained, “Whether you eat three meals or several, as long as you're meeting your nutrient needs, making healthy food choices most of the time, and eating on regular intervals, you'll be on your way to reaching your health and weight goals."





Edited by Alison Stanton

Kate Kunkel is a journalism student looking to minor in nutrition at Arizona State University. She currently interns for EmpowHER and has a passion for healthy eating and fitness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment!

Reviewed June 30, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.

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EmpowHER Guest

I did Body For Life for 6 months. Eating 6 meals a day was a pain in the rear. I remember always being hungry because the little meals never satisfied. I gained weight, which was my intent, but still...

July 4, 2011 - 9:35pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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