Three square meals may beat mini-meals for dieters

Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:15am EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Sitting down to eat three meals a day may be a better strategy for weight loss than grazing on several smaller "mini-meals," according to a U.S. study.

Researchers from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, found overweight and obese men on low-calorie, high-protein diets felt more satisfied and less hungry when they ate three times a day compared to when they ate six times a day.

"There's a lot of lay press about eating frequency," researcher Dr. Heather Leidy, who is now at The University of Missouri in Columbia, told Reuters Health.

While there's a widespread perception that it's better to eat little meals more often, she added: "These mini-meals everyone is talking about don't seem to be as beneficial as far as appetite control."

Studies on whether eating frequency affects appetite control have had "conflicting" results, she and her colleagues note in the journal Obesity.

To investigate further, they randomly assigned 27 men who were overweight or obese to eat either a high-protein diet or a normal-protein diet for 12 weeks.

Diets contained 750 fewer calories than each man needed to maintain his current weight.

Starting at week seven of the study, the men either ate their assigned diet in three meals spaced five hours apart, or in six meals eaten every two hours, for three days in a row. The study participants then switched to the other eating pattern for an additional three consecutive days.

Men eating the higher protein diet (25 percent of total calories from protein) felt fuller throughout the day, didn't want to eat as much late at night, and were less preoccupied with thoughts of food than the men who were consuming 14 percent of their energy as protein.   Continued...

<p>Customers eat breakfast at Homegirl Cafe in Los Angeles, April 23, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>