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New study says it’s not small, frequent meals that help with weight loss, it is high-protein diet.

Portion control is the new trend advocated by health buffs and diet experts as the better alternative to skipping meals and spartan diet for weight loss management. But a new study revealed that it’s not eating small, frequent meals to quell hunger that’s key to weight loss but appetite control and satiety through eating regular high protein meals.

The finding published in the journal Obesity was taken from data on overweight/obese men who were on a restricted-calorie diet, under either a high-protein or normal protein intake. Researchers from Purdue University compared the effect of eating frequency on controlling appetite through groupings that either have 3 eating occasions daily (every 5 five hours) or 6 eating occasions a day (every 2 hours). Indexes of appetite and satiety, such as daily hunger, fullness, desire to eat and preoccupation with thoughts of food were also assessed.

The study authors found that the above factors were not different between the two groups, which meant that eating frequency does not influence them. The exception to this is that those who ate 3 times a day or every 5 hours experienced greater fullness throughout the day including evenings and late nights -- but only if they ate high-protein meals.

Compared with the normal protein group (14% of energy as protein), the high protein group (25% of energy as protein) experienced lower late-night desire to eat and preoccupation with thoughts of food. This led the researchers to conclude that high protein consumption and not greater eating frequency will improve appetite control and satiety for the purpose of weight loss. 

The common belief that eating more frequent, smaller meals a day can lead to weight loss was borne of previous studies suggesting that overweight/obese people tend to eat fewer, larger meals which encourages overconsumption . "As a result, the idea was that people who were more successful with weight control were eating smaller, more frequent meals," said Wayne W. Campbell, Purdue professor of foods and nutrition. But this dietary habit may not be accurately reported because obese and overweight people tend to conceal how frequently and how much they eat, he added.
Co-author Heather J. Leidy, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, also noted that more individuals struggle with complying with consuming six meals a day and that frequent meals were literally the main meals split in half; the participants were not snacking. “Many people unfortunately exceed the 250-calorie snack,” she said.
"Our advice for people trying to lose weight is to add a moderate amount of protein at three regular meals a day to help appetite control and the feeling of fullness," advised Campbell. "Egg and lean pork products are good sources for protein, and if they are incorporated at meals when people do not normally consume protein, such as at breakfast and lunch, they may prove to be a nice strategy to control weight; promote satiety, which is the feeling of being full; and retain lean tissue mass, which is essential for people as they age."

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