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A new study has found that eating a healthy breakfast and quitting unhealthy snacking habits would prevent weight gain and promote a healthier life. Being overweight or obese are known risk factors for a number of diseases including chronic ones like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Dr. Hana Kahleova, from the Loma Linda University School of Public Health (LLUSPH), in California, with colleagues from her own institution, as well as from the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine and the Institute of Endocrinology, both based in Prague, Czech Republic, carried out the study on the association between the impact of meals and their frequency to weight gain.
The research team worked with Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2), a study monitoring the health lives of 96,000 Seventh-day Adventists from the U.S. and Canada. The AHS-2 considers that the Adventist population has a lowered risk of developing conditions like cancer, high blood pressure or heart disease due to their healthy eating habits.
The study included 50,660 adult individuals from the Adventists population aged 30 or older and the focus of the study was on the possible link between when and how often people eat, and their body mass index (BMI). The participants had various body types and sizes, and their eating habits and health outcomes were monitored for an average period of 7 years.
At the beginning of the study, the participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire, providing details of their medical history, eating practices, physical activity, and other relevant information. As the study went on, they filled in follow-up forms declaring any major health events. The final follow-up questionnaire reported how often participants had normally taken their meals, and at what times of the day.
Findings of the study show that people who regularly ate only one or two meals per day had a decrease in BMI. On the other hand, those who ate more than three meals a day increased their BMI, and the more meals they ate, including snacks, the greater the weight gain. It was also found that people who ate breakfast regularly tended to lose more weight than people who chose to skip breakfast.
An important finding was also that participants who ate their largest meal during breakfast, that is whose largest meal of the day was breakfast had a higher BMI decrease compared with people who made lunch or dinner their largest meal.
The team also found that skipping dinner completely and having a long 18 or 19-hour overnight fast contributed to weight loss. The team also observed other good eating habits including abstaining from snacks throughout the day and leaving 5 or 6 hours between breakfast and lunch.