Overweight people eat fewer meals than others

Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:00pm EST
 
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By Kimberly Hayes Taylor

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Normal weight adults, including those who had lost a lot of weight and kept it off, ate more often than overweight people in a new study looking at factors that may help in preventing weight gain.

Researchers following about 250 people for a year found that overweight individuals ate fewer snacks in addition to meals than people in the normal body weight range, but the overweight still took in more calories and they were less active over the course of the day.

"Most of the research has shown that people who eat more frequently have a lower weight," said lead researcher Jessica Bachman, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. "But no one knows why."

In particular, Bachman told Reuters Health, she wanted to understand what people who have lost significant amounts of weight do to maintain their weight loss, as a first step to helping guide others in losing weight and keeping it off.

More than 60 percent of Americans are obese or overweight, but the relationship between the number of meals people eat each day and the ability to maintain weight loss has remained unclear, she said.

Bachman and her team analyzed data collected in two large studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. One looked at the eating habits of people with a body mass index (a measure of weight relative to height) between 25 and 47, which is considered overweight to obese.

The other study looked at adult men and women who were normal weight (BMI of 19-24.9), about half of whom had lost at least 30 pounds and maintained their lower weight for more than five years.

The researchers found that, on average, the normal weight subjects ate three meals and a little over two snacks each day, whereas the overweight group averaged three meals and just over one snack a day.   Continued...