Posted by: Chris Maloney | June 26, 2013

Does Dr. Oz Recommend Eating Fewer Meals?

From a drawing of André Castaigne. The starvin...

From a drawing of André Castaigne. The starving Livilla refusing food. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love a good confusing study.  Nothing impels me to start questioning my lifestyle more than some study that flies in the face of everything that came before.

According to this new study, people who ate fewer meals did better at losing weight.  At least according to Dr. Oz‘ resident expert Kate Geagan.  Here’s the post.  Ok, it was only 54 people, and ok, it was for just 12 weeks, but I think that’s more than enough evidence to change recommendations globally, right?  Yep, it’s back to the old model of eating for everyone.

Unlike everyone else I know, I want to read the original study.  It isn’t enough for me to hear about what it means from another person, no matter how well qualified.

The original study, which I reposted below (here’s the link), does NOT support fewer meals a day, UNLESS you happen to be starving yourself already.  It would also help if you were already diabetic.

To be specific, people in this study ate 500 calories a day.  900 calories is starvation.  When they were on this “diet,” those who ate fewer “meals” lost more weight.  So a better term for this “diet” outcome would be:  “If you are going to starve yourself, just starve yourself.”

What this study has to do with the rest of us? I’m not sure.  I think I was already sold on the “if you starve, starve completely” model.  But I don’t recommend starving because after you finish starving usually your metabolism rebounds and you end up with more weight than you had before.  (Unless you continue the starvation for life, but I really don’t consider that living).

The goal must always be to create sustainable lifestyle and eating habits that last for a lifetime.  Anything else is just a gimmick.  I’d put this study on the shelf with the many, many, not-so-useful research insights.  For those of you considering starving yourselves, get a physician to watch over you.  And maybe call it “fasting,” which makes it sound healthier than it is.

Presentation Abstract <!– Print Abstract Print this Abstract –>
Session: From Nutrients to Meals–How Food Affects Diabetes Control
Abstract Number: 163-OR
Title: The Effect of Drequency of Meals on β-Cell Function in Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes
Presentation Start: 6/23/2013 8:15:00 AM
Presentation End: 6/23/2013 8:30:00 AM
Abstract: The aim of our study was to compare the effect of six vs. two meals a day with the same caloric restriction on β-cell function in subjects with type 2 diabetes (T2D). In a randomized, crossover study, we assigned 54 patients with T2D to follow 2 regimens of a hypocaloric diet (-500 kcal/day), each for 12 weeks: six meals a day (A), and two meals a day, breakfast and lunch (B). The diet in both regimens had the same macronutrient and energy content. All subjects were examined at weeks 0, 12 and 24. Insulin secretory rate (ISR) and β-cell function were assessed during the standard meal tests. ISR was calculated by C-peptide deconvolution, and β-cell function was quantified with a mathematical model. Insulin sensitivity (OGIS) was calculated, which quantifies glucose clearance per unit change of insulin. Hepatic fat content (HFC) was measured by the proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy performed by 3T MR scanner (Magnetom – Trio Siemens). For statistical analysis, 2×2 crossover ANOVA was used. Insulin secretion at the reference level and glucose sensitivity increased (p<0.05) comparably in both regimens. OGIS increased in both regimens (p<0.01), more in B (+8.2; 95% CI +3.4 to +13.1 ml.min−1m−2 in A vs. +21.0; 95% CI +16.1 to +26.0 ml.min−1m−2 in B; p<0.01). BMI decreased in both regimens (p<0.001), more in B (-0.82; 95% CI -0.94 to -0.69 kg.m-2 in A vs. -1.23; 95% CI -1.4 to -1.17 kg.m-2 in B; p<0.001). HFC decreased in response to both regimens (p<0.001), more in B (-3.4; 95% CI -3.8 to -3.1 % in A vs. -4.2; 95% CI -4.5 to -3.8% in B; p=0.03). Changes in glucose sensitivity and OGIS correlated negatively with changes in HFC (r=-0.28; p=0.02 and r=-0.47; p<0.001, respectively). After adjustment for changes in BMI the correlations were no longer significant. Two meals a day led to a greater decrease in BMI and HFC and a greater increase in OGIS. Insulin secretion and glucose sensitivity increased comparably in both regimens. Our data suggest that eating fewer larger meals may be more beneficial than more frequent meals for patients with T2D.




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