Eating more often still carries big benefits

Lowering 'bad' cholesterol a byproduct, recent study confirms

By Carolyn Susman

Cox News Service

Remember that expression, "everything old is new again?"

When it comes to health, that can be good. Studies that keep coming up with the same findings tend to signal reliable results.


The Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource newsletter has flagged a study published recently in the British Medical Journal (

Again, research has shown that eating six or more small meals daily appears preferable to eating much less often.

And a pattern of eating small meals tends to decrease total cholesterol levels, as well as lowering low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels -- the "bad" cholesterol, the study found.

High total cholesterol levels and LDL levels have been associated with heart disease and stroke.

"We need to consider not just what we eat but how often we eat," the study's authors said.

A quick check found reports going back to 1992 on this subject which read as if they could have been written today.

Example, from a March, 1992, article: "People who eat more than three meals a day may have lower average cholesterol levels than those who eat meals less frequently, a study from the University of California at San Diego suggests.

"The study indicates that people may be able to lower their cholesterol levels if they eat frequent, small meals.


"The researchers found that those people who said they ate four or more meals a day had cholesterol levels about 2.5 percent lower than those who ate once or twice a day, even though the more frequent meal-eaters consumed more calories, fat and cholesterol."

This is almost verbatim what the British Medical Journal's article said.

The more recent study's contribution, the researchers wrote, was that it focused this theory on a "free living" population and few studies, previously, had examined people left to their own eating devices and not given dietary restrictions.

Study authors called the cholesterol reduction "significant" and said it held up even after adjusting results for body mass index, physical activity, cigarette smoking, and dietary intake.

Not everyone finds these results encouraging for possibly decreasing heart disease.

An independent researcher from Sweden wrote to the Journal that he thought it possible that those with lower cholesterol levels may have been exercising more than study researchers estimated, smoking less, and living a less stressful lifestyle, all of which could lower cholesterol levels.

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