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Nibble, Don't Gorge

Many years ago, Franz Halberg at the University of Minnesota wrote a paper claiming that the food that you eat in the evening is more fattening than what you eat in the morning. A study from Edinburgh College in Scotland shows that the fattest men eat the fewest meals. Those who ate most frequently have the lowest weights (1).

After you eat, your body temperature rises to burn extra calories because food must first be broken down by multiple chemical reactions that produce a lot of heat. After you exercise, your body temperature rises and also uses extra calories. When you are inactive after eating, you burn fewer calories than when you are active, so eating at night is far more fattening. In a like manner, it is more fattening to gorge than to nibble. If you eat only one large meal, you produce extra heat for only a few hours. On the other hand, if you nibble small amounts throughout the day, you produce extra heat throughout the day and burn far more calories.

Several studies show that nibblers are thinner than gorgers ((2,3,4). Animals that nibble throughout the day have lower cholesterol and less body fat than those that eat all their calories in one meal (5). A study from Prague showed that men who skip meals are far more likely to be fat than those who eat regular meals (6). Adult diabetics who eat small meals frequently had lower blood sugar levels and produced less insulin throughout the day (7).

1) SE Drummond, NE Crombie, MC Cursiter, TR Kirk. Evidence that eating frequency is inversely related to body weight status in male, but not female, non-obese adults reporting valid dietary intakes. International Journal of Obesity 22: 2 (FEB 1998): 105-112. TR Kirk, Queen Margaret Coll, Ctr Food Res, Clerwood Terrace, Edinburgh EH12 8TS, Midlothian, Scotland.

2) Brit Med J 1990(Jan20);300:136-137.

3) NEJM 1989;321:929-934.

4) Young J AM Diet Assoc 1971;59:473-480.

5) Diabetes Care 1982;5:634-641.

6) Fabry Am J Clin Nutr 1970;23: 1059-1068.

7) AG Segura, RG Josse, TMS Wolever. Acute metabolic effects of increased meal frequency in type II diabetes: Three vs six, nine, and twelve meals. Diabetes Nutrition & Metabolism 8: 6 (DEC 1995):331-338. Conclusion: increased meal frequency acutely flattened postprandial plasma glucose responses and reduced day-long plasma insulin concentrations.

8) European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1991;45:161-169 (nibbling less fattening than gorging)

Checked 9/7/12

June 2nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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