Larger portions lead to greater health risk: study

By Chris Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Blood sugar

Eating more food less often can put consumers at higher risk of
high cholesterol and blood pressure - a salutary warning for food
companies about the need to reduce portion sizes.

Scientists from the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Md., and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Intramural Research Program in Baltimore, Md., said that there was strong evidence to suggest that eating larger portions once a day, instead of three smaller meals a day, was damaging to the health. A small group of male and female volunteers took part in two eight-week meal-treatment periods, with each volunteer completing both of the treatment diets. They consumed either all of their required weight-maintenance calories in one meal a day or in three meals a day. The study showed that consuming a one-meal-per-day diet, rather than a traditional three-meal-per-day diet, is feasible for a short duration, but that the "one-mealers" had significant increases in total cholesterol, LDL or 'bad' cholesterol and in blood pressure compared to the "three-mealers". The researchers said that the changes in cardiovascular disease risk factors occurred despite the fact that the one-mealers saw slight decreases in their weight and fat mass in comparison to when they were three-mealers. There were also problems in regulating blood sugar levels for the one-mealers, the study showed: they had higher morning fasting blood sugar levels, higher and more sustained elevations in blood sugar concentrations, and a delayed response to the body's insulin, compared to when they were three-mealers. Insulin is required to lower blood sugar levels. The trend towards larger portion sizes - allowing consumers with increasingly hectic lives to avoid such time-consuming activities as eating three meals a day - has been growing steadily in recent years. But with growing levels of obesity on both sides of the Atlantic, food manufacturers have come under increasing pressure to act more responsibly and reduce portion sizes and, thus, calorie intake. A 2005 study from Penn State University showed that larger portion sizes do not necessarily lead to consumers feeling fuller, either. Barbara Rolls, director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior, found that when served larger portions for an extended period of time, people consumed more food over the entire period. "Living in the age of supersize meals and 'huge food', our study shows that there is a great need for people to be more aware of what and how much food they are served," she said. Food manufacturers have reacted to these studies, however. Just last month, 10 major producers agreed to advertise their products more responsibly, using portion sizes that were appropriate for the audience. And the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has called for its members to implement uniform portion size standards on all processed food packaging. Meanwhile, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) guidelines specifically targeted portion size as a key determinant in what people eat. Sources: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Vol. 85, No. 4, 981-988, April 2007 Title: "A controlled trial of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction in healthy, normal-weight, middle-aged adults" Authors: Kim Stote, David Baer, Karen Spears, David Paul, Keith Harris, William Rumpler, Pilar Strycula, Samer Najjar, Luigi Ferrucci, Donald Ingram, Dan Longo and Mark Mattson Metabolism Volume 56, Issue 12, December 2007, Pages 1729-1734 "Impact of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction on glucose regulation in healthy, normal-weight middle-aged men and women" Authors: Olga Carlson, Bronwen Martin, Kim Stote, Erin Golden, Stuart Maudsley, Samer Najjar, Luigi Ferrucci, Donald Ingram, Dan Longo, William Rumpler, David Baer, Josephine Egan and Mark Mattson

Related topics: R&D

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