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Eating More Often May Help Lower Cholesterol
 By Amy Norton        

        A person's cholesterol levels may depend not only on what he or she eats, but also how often, according to UK researchers.

        They found that middle-aged and older adults who ate frequently throughout the day had lower "bad" cholesterol levels compared with those who tended to down one or two large meals per day. This was despite the fact that the frequent eaters average, had a higher calorie and fat intake.

         The explanation could rest in the different metabolic responses to these eating patterns, the study's lead author, Kay-Tee Khaw, told Reuters Health.

        Khawand her colleagues at the University of Cambridge report the findings in the December 1st issue of the British Medical Journal.

        The researchers looked at data on more than 14,600 men and women aged 45 to 75 who were part of  a larger cancer study. Participants were asked about their current eating habits and activity levels, and had their cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight recorded.

        Khaw's team found that participants' total cholesterol counts declined as their eating frequency increased. Those who ate at least five or six times a day had the lowest total cholesterol, on average, while the highest measurements were found among those who dined only once or twice a day. The same pattern showed up for LDL ( "bad" ) cholesterol.

        "Our data show a decrease of approximately 5% in 



concentrations of total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein ( LDL) cholesterol in men and women who eat six or more times a day compared with those who eat once or twice a day, " the researchers report .

        Frequent eaters did not, however, have higher levels of  " good " HDL cholesterol, which is believed to help protect the heart from disease.

        According to Khaw' s team, their findings are "particularly striking" in light of the fact that frequent eaters tended to consume more calories, including calories from fat.

        Yet the findings are biologically plausible, Khaw explained. Animal research, she said, has shown that those given infrequent large meals show metabolism patterns different from animals fed more often-including a higher absorption of sugar in the intestines, higher after-meal peaks of the sugar-regulating hormone insulin, and greater activity in enzymes that synthesize cholesterol.

        As for humans, Khaw said, "it could also be that frequent eaters metabolize what they eat rather differently than infrequent eaters. "

        She pointed out that frequent eaters may also get more exercise , spurring their need to eat more often although she noted , her team tried to control for this factor in the study.

        Despite the higher calorie and fat intake among frequent eaters in this study, the findings do not give prople license to gorge on French fries, Khaw cautioned.

        "We should stress that our data do not provide evidence for advocating frequent snacking on junk food, " she said.

        Khaw advjsed that people who wish to hold down their cholesterol levels "should first and foremost" eat more fruits and vegetables and cut their saturated fat intake.

        "Changing meal frequency, " she added, "might be an additional strategy. "
































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