Those are the take-home points from a new research study by Loma Linda University School of Public Health and the Czech Republic.
Using information gained from the more than 50,000 participants, researchers found that timing and frequency of meals plays a large role in predicting weight loss or gain.
Dr. Hana Kahleova, one of the study’s authors, said that the findings confirm the validity of the saying: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
The results improve if there’s the will to skip that pauper’s dinner altogether, she said.
The idea that weight loss can be achieved by eating smaller amounts more frequently does not register on the scales, she said.
Generally, more snacks means more caloric intake, Kahleova said in a recent telephone interview.
The process of digesting large amounts of food eaten at one sitting actually burns a significant number of calories, so the potential for weight gain is reduced.
The result is someone is likely to gain less weight from eating 2,000 calories at one sitting than 2,000 calories spread out over many snacks, she said.
Lisa Diaz, diabetes manager with Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, says the diet recommendation “is contrary to what we do with diabetes,” where a consistent level of carbohydrates is important throughout the day.
Since one out of three Americans are pre-diabetic, it would be risky for someone to load up on calories for breakfast, as the study would suggest, unless they know with certainty whether they are diabetic.
Kahleova was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Loma Linda University School of Public Health when the study was conducted. She is currently director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., and on sabbatical from the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague, Czech Republic, as a postdoctoral research fellow and diabetes physician.
The research paper, “Meal frequency and timing are associated with Body Mass Index in the Adventist Health Study-2” was published Wednesday online and will appear in the September edition of the Journal of Nutrition.
The paper was co-written by Gary Fraser, a professor in the LLU schools of Medicine and Public Health.
The study was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute, the World Cancer Research Fund, and the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic.