According to the study above, published in the British Journal of Nutrition at the end of last year, increasing meal frequency from three meals a day to three meals plus three additional snacks did not promote greater weight loss.
Both groups consumed an equal amount of calories (2931 kJ/day) and both groups ended up losing a little less than five percent of body weight after eight weeks.
Likewise, a previous study mentioned in the article above found no difference in energy balance between groups of people consuming either one meal or five meals in a two-week change-over trial.
So does that mean this is just another myth gone bust?
...a French study published in the journal Forum of Nutrition in 2003 found that people whose habitual diet pattern included a fourth meal – the so-called "goûter” or snack commonly eaten at 4 pm in France – had demonstrable benefits on Body Mass Index and metabolic profile, even though their total energy intake for the day is not greater than those who skip this meal.
The study states:
“The "goûter", commonly eaten in the afternoon in France by most children and many adults, has the biological characteristics of a meal because it is eaten in response to hunger. Suppressing the "goûter" in "habitual fourth meal eaters" soon leads to an increase in Body Mass Index (BMI).
Further, people who are regular "goûter" eaters have a higher carbohydrate intake and better metabolic profile than other adults, even though their total energy intake is not greater.
Increased feeding frequency leads to a reduction in the total secretion of insulin, an improvement in insulin resistance and a better blood glucose control, as well as an improvement in the blood lipid profile.
My thoughts are summed up nicely by this passage...
In the end, perhaps the most prudent recommendation is to simply let your hunger dictate when to eat. An important caveat here though is to remember that WHAT you eat is essential.
If your body gets the nutrients it needs, your hunger will be a reliable indicator for when you need to eat. However, many people today are in fact undernourished, despite being overweight.
Consuming junk food and fast food that does not feed your body the nutrients it needs will often lead to eating far more calories than you need simply because your insulin- and other hormonal balances are out of whack.
Eat REAL food. Eat when hungry. Seems pretty simple to me. Ties nicely right into the DUH! post from earlier this week.
In doing so, I have found I do go longer between meals, as well as have fewer meals per day - not to mention improved glucose control.