Should we be eating three meals a day?
World18:1618 April, 2022

Fasting could also improve our glycaemic response

Should we be eating three meals a day?
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The idea that we should eat three meals a day is surprisingly modern. How many meals a day is best for our health? presents:

It's likely you eat three meals a day – modern life is designed around this way of eating. We're told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we're given lunch breaks at work, and then our social and family lives revolve around evening meals. But is this the healthiest way to eat?

Before considering how frequently we should eat, scientists urge us to consider when we shouldn't.

Intermittent fasting, where you restrict your food intake to an eight-hour window, is becoming a huge area of research.

Giving our bodies at least 12 hours a day without food allows our digestive system to rest, says Emily Manoogian, clinical researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, and author of a 2019 paper entitled "When to eat".

Rozalyn Anderson, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health, has studied the benefits of calorie restriction, which is associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body.

"Having a fasting period every day could reap some of these benefits," she says. "It gets into the idea that fasting puts the body in a different state, where it's more ready to repair and surveil for damage, and clear misfolded proteins." Misfolded proteins are faulty versions of ordinary proteins, which are molecules that perform a huge range of important jobs in the body. Misfolded proteins have been associated with a number of diseases.

Intermittent fasting is more in line with how our bodies have evolved, Anderson argues. She says it gives the body a break so it's able to store food and get energy to where it needs to be, and trigger the mechanism to release energy from our body stores.

Fasting could also improve our glycaemic response, which is when our blood glucose rises after eating, says Antonio Paoli, professor of exercise and sport sciences at the University of Padova in Italy. Having a smaller blood glucose increase allows you to store less fat in the body, he says.

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