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