When it comes to losing weight, some dieters swear by the “grazing” method – eating several smaller meals throughout the day – instead of eating larger, more traditional meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Now, a new study that compared both approaches has found that it doesn’t matter which strategy dieters employs to lose weight, as long as they reduce the total number of calories daily.
Women who consumed five meals on one test day and two normal sized meals on another – each the same number of calories each day – burned the same number of calories both days, according to researchers.
Despite popular conviction that grazing increases an individual’s metabolism – thereby allowing him or her to burn calories more efficiently throughout the day – researchers now believe that no longer appears to be accurate.
Based on this latest joint study from researchers at the University Hospital Coventry and University of Warwick, it seems to have become clear that whether a diet eats two meals a day or six, as long as the number of calories remain the same, there is no difference in the amount of energy the body expends or rate at which it burns calories. Therefore, how often a dieter eats has no effect on weight loss.
While this may sound like a set back for dieters, researchers believe this discovery free those looking to lose weight to choose whichever type of approach they prefer rather than feeling forced into one that didn’t fit their normal eating schedule.
As part of the study, researchers compared the dieting approaches of 24 women, including those of a normal weight and those who were obese. The women of a healthy weight averaged 34 years of age, while the obese women averaged 42 years of age.
Participants were given either two meals a day or fie meals on two different days. Researchers then measured the number of calories burned, and then compared each woman’s individual daily results. Both the healthy and overweight women burned nearly the same number of calories over a 24-hour period, regardless of which day was analyzed.
Researchers also took blood samples from the participants at two separate intervals during the 24-hour period to measure signs of inflammation, a condition known as endotoxins, among other measurements. Obese individuals typically suffer from more inflammation than those at a healthier weight.
Studies have found inflammation linked to a variety of chronic health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and gum disease and tooth decay.
One of the problems researchers discovered with dieters who ate more frequently throughout the day was a tendency to underreport how much they ate. With more frequent meals, dieters have a harder time remembering exact what they ate during each meal, which results in a higher overall calorie intake.
Based on these new findings, researchers recommend that no matter how often a dieter decides to eat, the key is to carefully track how many calories are being consumed during each meal.
The results of this study were published in the April edition of the journal Nutrition.
Timothy Lemke is a freelance health writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Sue Walker, a dentist in Milwaukie, OR.