Is It Really Healthier to Eat Several Smaller Meals a Day?

The myth: Eating several smaller meals a day is best. True or false? Mike Dawson has the answer.

Portrait of man dining in kitchen --- Image by © SuperStock/Corbis

Photo: Corbis

For the longest time, nutritionists sold millions of us on the idea that the body's metabolism is like a fire that requires fuel to keep burning. From this theory came the notion of grazing—that instead of eating three meals a day, one should eat a series of smaller meals to continually stoke the body's blaze.

Well, the fire theory has been proverbially doused by a legit study published this week in the journal Cell Metabolism.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, shows that when it comes to staying lean, what matters most may not be how many times you eat but rather how long you go without food every day.

In the study, mice were given equal portions of the same fatty foods. One group could eat throughout the day; the other group could only eat within an eight-hour window. At the end of the 100-day trial, the all-day eaters turned obese and suffered from severe metabolic diseases (liver and kidney problems). But the mice with the restricted chow times gained hardly any fat and were relatively healthy.

I will now be returning to three squares a day—provided I can squeeze them into an eight-hour window.

— Dawson is a magazine writer and editor and a regular contributor to Details.

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