New Research Shares Eating Less Meals May Be Better For Weight Loss Than Intermittent Fasting


According to a new study, compared to the fast-growing intermittent fasting diet, fewer meals and fewer calories may actually be the key to losing weight.

The research, which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, shows that rather than doing intermittent fasting to lose weight and shed pounds, which is where people are only allowed to eat only during particular hours in the day and not eat at all during others, it may be more effective to eat bigger but fewer meals when it comes to controlling one’s weight.

The study involved the researchers checking the electric health records of 550 adults, where they found that the total daily number of large meals – approximately 1,001 calories or more – and medium sized meals – approximately 500 to 1,000 calories – were actually linked with increased weight gain during the six years of follow-up. However, those that ate fewer and smaller meals, which were estimated at 500 calories and less, were linked to a decrease in weight. The researchers also found that the time in between the first and last meal was not related to weight change either.

Obesity medicine physician, Chika V. Anekwe, MD, from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston shares that the new study supports former yet well-established research that shows how ‘the total amount of calories you eat plays a more significant role in weight control than the timing of when you eat.’

However, Dr. Anekwe also noted that intermittent fasting does have various other benefits, like helping with blood sugar control and improving longevity.

She shares, “For some people, restricting the time interval of food intake naturally helps them to eat less overall, so for those individuals it can play a role in weight loss. However if someone tends to eat more during the fasting window than they would have if spreading the food intake out over a longer time period, then weight loss will not be expected in that scenario.”

Meanwhile, Julia Zumpano, RD from Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition explains that particular individuals that fast may believe that they don’t have to think about how much food they eat, but that’s just not the case.

In fact she said, “At times, fasting can lead to an ‘all or nothing’ way of thinking. For instance: ‘I haven’t eaten all day so I am going to eat what I want and as much as I want.’ As clinicians, we can help our patients by suggesting a structure for healthy meals and snacks evenly distributed throughout their day.”

Meanwhile, lead study author and associate scientist in the division of cardiovascular and clinical epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Di Zhao, PhD, said in a press release that their findings couldn’t prove that how often people eat and how many calories they consume were not necessarily risk factors for weight change than timing one’s meals.

As for the participants in the study, around 8 out of 10 indicated that they were white adults, while 12 percent were self-reported as Black adults, and another 3 percent said they were Asian adults. In addition, most of the participants were college educated or higher, while the average age of the participants was 51 years in age. Also, the average body mass index of the participants was 30.8, a number considered to be obese.

Notably, the research team was reliant on a mobile application, Daily24, where the participants catalogued their eating, sleeping and wake up time.

“For the public, the main takeaway is that the total amount of energy [food] intake plays a more significant role in body weight than the specific timing of that intake. That being said, it is still encouraged to focus more on quality of the food intake for health and weight management as opposed to quantity. Limiting processed foods and added sugars as a rule are important for maintaining a healthy weight,” said Anekwe.