people normally don't eat five or more small meals per day,
but instead eat two-to-three larger meals for the sake of
convenience and tradition. Yet studies have shown that a common
American "gorging" diet - in which a person obtains total
daily calories in only a few meals per day - may lead to higher
levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol than a diet in which calories
are divided among multiple meals throughout the day.
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal
determined self-reported eating frequency; amount and
types of nutrients eaten; and fat concentrations in the blood
for nearly 15,000 people 45-75 years of age. Eating frequency
per day was classified into five groups: one-to-two meals;
three meals; four meals; five meals; or six-or-more meals.
Blood concentrations of "bad" and total cholesterol decreased
steadily with an increasing number of meals eaten per day.
Cholesterol levels were significantly lower in those eating
six-or-more meals per day than in those eating only one or
two meals. Despite lower cholesterol levels, eating more often
was also linked to higher calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and
protein consumption, however.
This study is one of many that show the benefits of eating
numerous small meals per day, as opposed to only a few large
ones. By consuming five or six daily meals, your body will
also convert less off the food you eat into fat and maintain
a constant blood-sugar level, making you less likely to experience
periods of low energy. Be careful not to simply eat the same
sized meals you eat now, but more often - or you might actually
gain weight and raise your cholesterol.
Titan SMO, Bingham S, Welch A, et al. Frequency of eating
and concentrations of serum cholesterol in the Norfolk population
of the European prospective investigation into cancer (EPIC-Norfolk):
Cross sectional study. British Medical Journal 2001:323,
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