Fewer small meals or intermittent fasting, which is more effective for losing weight?
Portion control or simply eating fewer calories appears to be a better strategy for weight management than intermittent fasting.
Eating less frequently and having smaller meals each day will strongly influence weight loss compared to fasting for a certain number of hours a day, a study has found.
Some studies have suggested that time‐restricted eating, also known as intermittent fasting, can boost circadian rhythms and energy metabolism.
However, the current study didn’t find that limiting meals for a specific period of time can helped anybody lose weight in the long run.
The research team examined the relationship between time from first to last meal with weight change.
For this study, 550 obese adults were enrolled, of which 80 percent were white, most participants had a college or higher degree.
The follow-up period was 6 years.
They used a mobile application to report eating, sleeping, and wake up time across 24 hours.
This information allowed the team to calculate the interval from waking to first meal, between meals, and from the last meal to sleep.
Summary of findings
- Meal timing had no effect on weight change over the long-term.
- Total daily number of large meals (more than 1,000 calories) was linked to weight gain over the six-year follow up.
- Total daily number of medium meals (between 500 to 1000 calories) was associated with weight gain over follow‐up time.
- However, fewer small meals (less than 500 calories) was linked to weight loss over the follow-up period.
- The time intervals from being awake to first meal was 1.6 hours, from first to last meal was 11.5 hours, and from last meal to sleep was 4 hours.
- Sleep duration on average made up 7.5 hours of the 24-hour window each day.
- The greatest risk factors for weight change were daily calorie intake and meal frequency rather than meal timing.
Data suggests that nearly 70 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese, a serious risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Therefore, improving diet and lifestyle, including eating healthy foods, lower calorie intake, smaller sized meals, more physical activity, less stress, and better sleep can help people to battle obesity.
According to the American Heart Association, irregular eating patterns and changing meal frequency are not favourable for weight control and heart health.
About the author
The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (Zhao et al., 2023).
Hello, and welcome to PsyBlog. Thanks for dropping by.
This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.
It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.
I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.