When you want to lose weight, many of us are put off by the idea of starving ourselves, spending our days with rumbling stomachs and having to resist giving in to our hunger.
But this needn’t actually be the case at all.
In fact, according to a new study, eating six meals a day rather than three could help you stabilise your blood sugar levels, stick to your healthy eating regime and reduce hunger.
Researchers from the Agricultural University of Athens assessed 47 obese people with pre-diabetes or type two diabetes - they found that those who ate little and often had much better blood sugar control than those consumed three larger meals a day.
The participants in the study were asked to follow a special diet for six months. Everyone had the same calorie intake over the course of the day (designed to maintain their weight), but the frequency of eating varied.
Half ate three meals a day, half ate six, and the groups switched after three months.
The researchers found that the people who ate six times a day saw a decrease in their glycated haemoglobin and glucose levels, which is a sign of improved blood sugar control.
For the participants who had pre-diabetes and severely impaired glucose tolerance, eating little and often helped reduce how often they had high insulin levels and also delayed the time taken for blood glucose to peak after eating sugar.
Lead researcher Dr Emilia Papakonstantinou said: “Using a six-meal pattern instead of three-meal, while containing the same overall calories, improved blood sugar control and reduced hunger in obese people with prediabetes or full-blown diabetes.
“These results suggest that increased frequency of meals, consumed at regular times, may be a useful tool for doctors treating subjects with obesity and diabetes or prediabetes, especially those who are reluctant or unsuccessful dieters.”
One in three British adults are classed as having pre-diabetes, meaning they’re at risk of developing the condition, and more than 3.6million Brits have type 2 diabetes linked to obesity.
Although the study was intended to assess diabetes and blood sugar, all the participants reported reduced hunger levels when following the six-meal plan.
This suggests that eating six smaller meals a day, rather than three large ones, could help you achieve your weight-loss goals as well as improving your blood sugar levels.
Diabetes UK has warned people to check with a doctor before changing their eating patterns.