Many nutrition experts recommend eating multiple small meals throughout the day to ward off overeating due to extreme hunger. Now, a recent study recommends multiple small meals as a way to help lower cholesterol.

Researchers in Norfolk, England, asked 14,666 men and women between the ages of 45 and 75 to report on a questionnaire their eating frequency. Those who ate at least six times a day had cholesterol levels about 5 percent lower than those who ate only one or two meals a day. This reduction in cholesterol can lower a person’s risk of heart disease by 10 percent to more than 20 percent.

A steady decrease in blood cholesterol levels was observed as the number of daily meals increased. Interestingly, those who ate only one or two daily meals took in less overall fat and calories per day than those who ate most frequently, but still had higher cholesterol levels.

Researchers do not know for certain why eating multiple small meals beneficially affects cholesterol. A theory given by one of the lead researchers is that eating big meals causes a change in body metabolism, activating liver enzymes involved in cholesterol metabolism. It could be a defensive mechanism that allows the body to store fat when a particularly big food source is available.

This association of lowered cholesterol and multiple meals had been reported in animal studies and short-term human
experiments in controlled laboratory experiments, but had not been tested in
the general population before this study. This study was originally published
in the British Medical Journal (December 1, 2001).