Does it matter how you time your meals? Nutrition experts often urge obese people with diabetes to eat six small meals evenly spaced throughout the day. The idea is that this pattern will even out blood sugar and reduce food cravings. A new study challenges that conventional wisdom.
How to Time Your Meals for Better Health:
Israeli researchers randomly assigned 29 obese patients with type 2 diabetes treated with insulin to follow one of two different weight loss diets. Both diets contained the same number of calories in a day, but they were distributed differently. One group ate six small meals spaced throughout the day, as doctors often recommend. The other group got just three meals a day: a large breakfast, a medium-sized lunch and a small supper.
How Does a Big Breakfast Affect Health?
People on the three-meal plan lowered fasting glucose levels 54 mg/dl. That was more than twice as much as those on the six-meal plan. Their glucose levels only dropped 23 mg/dl.
Overall, mean glucose levels dropped far more after three months on the three-meal plan, and people lost an average of 11 pounds. Those on the six-meal plan gained about 3 pounds, even though they ate the same number of calories as those in the other group.
In addition, the big-breakfast group had a lower average insulin requirement after three months. People in the six-meal group increased the amount of insulin they needed. Less insulin needed implies better blood sugar control. It seems that how you time your meals really makes a significant difference for blood sugar control.
Some of the blood sugar changes were apparent even before weight loss kicked in, as early as two weeks into the study. The scientists conclude that meal timing and frequency is as important as weight loss in blood sugar control.
How Should You Time Your Meals?
To learn more about this topic, you may be interested in our interview with Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge of Columbia University Medical Center. It is Show 1094: Does It Matter When You Eat?