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No Belly Laughs When It Comes to Skipping Meals

Sep 28, 2015 11:15AM ● By Cate Reynolds
Skipping meals has always been frowned on by doctors and dieticians. In fact, adding meals, by eating more frequent, smaller portions, is often advocated these days. But that hasn’t stopped us from continuing our mini-fasts. “I’m going to work through lunch and leave early,” you might hear a colleague say. Or “I’m going out to dinner tonight and want to be able to splurge.” Or “I need to drop a few pounds fast!” And let’s not forget the always popular, “I don’t eat breakfast—there just isn’t time.”

Up till now, fatigue, blood sugar fluctuations, afternoon energy slumps, and hunger-induced binges haven’t been sufficient motivation to stop us, though. However, the results of a recent study just might do the trick.

Researchers from Ohio State University and Yale University have found that skipping meals may actually make you gain weight—in particular the dreaded, impossible-to-budge belly fat. The same fat that is not only stubborn and unsightly, but specifically linked to many chronic health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.

In the study, mice (those poor, helpful-to-humans little mammals) that were fed only a single meal each day and fasted for the rest of the day developed insulin resistance in their livers—often an indication of pre-diabetes. The mice also expanded around the “waist.” When the liver doesn’t respond to insulin signals telling it to stop producing glucose, that extra sugar in the blood is stored as fat. And in the worse place. Just ask those now-chubby mice.

“This does support the notion that small meals throughout the day can be helpful for weight loss, though that may not be practical for many people,” said Martha Belury, professor of Human Nutrition at Ohio State University and senior author of the study. “But you definitely don’t want to skip meals to save calories because it sets your body up for larger fluctuations in insulin and glucose and could be setting you up for more fat gain instead of fat loss.”

Point very well taken.

Sarah Hagerty