Frequent meals may be linked to healthier eating

March 4, 2015

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that adults who eat multiple small meals every day may eat better and weigh less than those who had fewer but larger meals.

The researchers analyzed data from 2,385 adults from a study conducted between 1996 and 1999. They found that participants who reported eating less than four times during a 24-hr period had an average BMI of 29.0 and consumed an average of 2,472 calories. A BMI of 18.5–24.9 is considered normal weight and BMI of 25–29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30+ is considered obese.

The researchers found that participants who ate six times or more over 24 hr had an average BMI of 27.3 and consumed an average of 2,129 calories. They tended to consume foods that were lower in calories and higher in nutritional value, while people who ate less than four meals tended to consume more calories in the evening, and to have alcohol in the evening.

The researchers concluded: “Our findings demonstrated that lower BMI levels in more frequent eaters are associated with consumption of lower dietary energy density and higher nutrient quality foods. Modifying eating behavior through more frequent meals of low dietary energy density and high nutrient quality may be an important approach to control epidemic obesity.”

They also note that the study doesn’t prove that timing or frequency of eating caused the differences in BMI.