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Two Large Meals Better Than Six Small Ones?

Last updated June 28, 2015

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

The researchers from the Czech Republic recruited 54 people (29 men and 25 women) diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, for a total of 24 weeks. All participants were taking oral medication for diabetes and were between 30 and 70 years of age.


We all have heard that eating multiple small meals throughout the day is best to keep your metabolism ramped up and reduce hunger, when trying to lose weight. However a new study, published in the journal Diabetolgia, suggests eating two large meals and skipping dinner may be better than eating six small ones with the same amount of calories to control weight and blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.

The researchers from the Czech Republic recruited 54 people (29 men and 25 women) diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, for a total of 24 weeks. All participants were taking oral medication for diabetes and were between 30 and 70 years of age.

Participants were randomly split into two groups and were asked to follow one of two restricted-calorie diets for 12 weeks. After completing one diet, they switched to the other, for another 12 weeks. Both groups followed a diet that reduced their energy intake by 500 calories per day and contained 50 to 55 percent carbohydrates, 20 to 25 percent protein and less than 30 percent fat.

The difference between the two diets was that one diet included six small meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three small snacks. The other included two large meals: breakfast eaten between 6 and 10 a.m., and lunch between noon and 4 p.m. Both diets were nutritionally and calorically identical.

The researchers also asked the patients not to modify their exercise behavior during the study.

Although both groups did lose weight and decreased the amount of fat in their livers, the group that consumed only two large meals lost more during each 12-week session. Individuals in the group that only ate two meals lost 8.2 pounds on average, compared to the people who ate six small meals, losing only 5 pounds on average.

The blood sugar levels decreased in both diets, but people eating the two-meal diet had a stronger decrease in blood sugar. Neither diets produced any side effects.

Richard Elliott, research communications officer at Diabetes United Kingdom, says in a statement that more research is needed before people with diabetes change their eating habits.

“What we do know is that eating a healthy, balanced diet, taking regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight, together with taking any medication prescribed by your doctor, is vital for effective management of type 2 diabetes,” Elliott says.

CNN diet and fitness expert Melina Jampolis says, “This is interesting," says CNN diet and fitness expert Melina Jampolis. "But the first thing I think of is that it's not really liveable, telling people to skip dinner every day.”

It is not recommended to skip dinner overall, but to focus on eating an energetic breakfast and lunch, and keep your last meal of the day low in calories.

Additional Resource:

Eating two larger meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is more effective than six smaller meals in a reduced-energy regimen for patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomised crossover study

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 23, 2014
Last updated: June 28, 2015