Eating less often and earlier in the day promotes a healthy BMI, new study finds

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A new study on meal frequency and timing has revisited the widely held opinion that eating more frequently is better for weight control than eating larger meals less frequently.
The Adventist Health Study 2 (AHS-2), conducted among American and Canadian Seventh-day Adventists, did not find this. Secondly, it showed that having larger meals later in the day is not effective at reducing Body Mass Index (BMI).
Both excessive energy intake and a higher BMI can increase the risk for obesity-associated conditions and type 2 diabetes.
Researchers from Loma Linda University, in California, and the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague, Czech Republic, analysed data on 50,660 healthy adults from relevant Seventh-day Adventist Churches.
The team followed them for about seven years and monitored their meal patterns, including whether or not they consumed breakfast, the number of meals they had per day, the length of overnight fast, and the exact timing of their largest meal.
Researchers used self-report questionnaires throughout the study period to gather the data, including the aforementied questions about meal frequency and timing and information about medical history.
The primary outcome measured was the change in BMI per year relative to different meal patterns and timing, which was adjusted for other lifestyle factors, like exercise.
They found that participants who ate only one or two meals per day experienced a slight reduction in BMI, and so did those who ate a filling breakfast as their largest meal. In contrast, more meals per day and snacking were associated with a greater increase in BMI.
A longer daily night fast equal to or superior to 18 hours was associated with a decreased BMI, as opposed to a medium overnight fast of between 12 and 17 hours.
Eating the largest meal earlier in the day, at lunch time or in the form of a large breakfast, rather than dinner, also reduced BMI significantly.
Researchers believe that due to the fact that we tend to be more insulin sensitive in the morning, we should be eating our largest meal at that time, followed by smaller meals for lunch and dinner.
According to findings, avoiding food intake past a certain evening cut-off is also beneficial, so as to extend the overnight fasting window and make sure the body has ample time to process the food before bed.
The latest intermittent fasting trend, which involves a longer night fast and a shorter eating window, has been shown in some animal studies to positively influence insulin resistance and lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
Overall, this latest study suggests that eating less frequently, avoiding snacking between meals, and eating the biggest meal for breakfast or lunch may be most effective for reducing BMI in healthy adults.