For anyone who has tried to lose weight at some point in their life, the advice of eating five small but frequent meals a day to help speed the process most probably sounds familiar. I personlly jumped at this mantra and thought of it as an escape from the fate of starvation offered by most other diets. Sadly, a soon-to-be-published study has debunked this old dieter’s motto. The study contends that the frequency of meals has absolutely nothing to do with weight loss. In fact, eating too frequently can actually cause inflammation in the blood, which will increase your risk of getting certain health problems. Researchers argue that no matter how much we may try to deny it, the only way to lose weight is to decrease the amount of calories you consume in a day.

The study was presented Thursday by Dr.Milan Piya at the Society for Endocinology’s annual BES conference in Liverpool, UK. In it, researchers conducted an experiment to find out for sure what happened to the body when a person ate more often throughout the day. The participants, 24 lean and obese women, were asked to eat two or five meals a day on separate days. They ate the same amount of calories on both days, and they were monitored using whole body calorimeters.

Results showed that regardless of the amount of meals consumed, both the lean and obese women burned the same amount of calories over a day. Not only did results show that eating more frequently did not result in more calories burned, but women who ate five meals a day were more likely to cause inflammation linked to higher risks of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. “Our studies have identified two main findings; firstly that the frequency of the meal doesn’t affect the calories we burn in a day, but what matters most for losing weight is counting calories," Piya explained in a press release.

This study will hopefully try to combat obesity, a problem which affected more than one-third of American adults and 17 percent of American youth in 2012 and is only increasing. The risk for diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes is much higher in obese and overweight individuals. The study's researchers hope to add to it in the future by focusing on the impact of diet, gut flora, and calories burned in different people."By understanding how diet affects inflammatory risk and energy expenditure, we will further our understanding of how we can better target diet intervention on an individual basis," Piya added.

Source: Piya MK. Meal size and frequency influences metabolic endotoxaemia and inflammatory risk but has no effect on diet induced thermogenesis in either lean or obese subjects. Society for Endocrinology Annual BES Conference. 2014.