Skipping meals may seem like an obvious strategy when trying to kickstart weight loss, but a new study suggests it could backfire.
Researchers from Ohio State University have warned that skipping breakfast, lunch or dinner might actually cause dieters to put on weight, rather than lose it.
Researchers split mice into two groups as part of their study. Group one was fed a single meal each day, meaning they fasted for the majority of the time. In contrast, group two was freely allowed to graze on food throughout the day.
Initially, the mice who were fed just one meal per day lost weight. However, they quickly regained weight after calories were added back into their diet.
By the end of the study, the mice who had been on the restricted diet had more belly fat than the ones who had been free to eat what they wanted all along.
Researchers said this was probably because the mice on the restricted diet experienced insulin resistance in their livers – a warning sign for diabetes.
When insulin signals fail, the liver does not know it needs to stop producing glucose. The extra sugar in the blood is then stored as fat, causing the individual to put on weight around the belly.
Belly fat is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
“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,” senior author of the study Martha Belury said in a statement.
“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.”
"To lose weight and keep it off, you have to reduce the amount of calories you consume or increase the calories you burn through exercise. But skipping meals altogether can result in tiredness and poor nutrition," the NHS advise.
"You will also be more likely to snack on high fat and high sugar foods, which could result in weight gain."
H/T: The MailOnlineSuggest a correction