Eating more often can reduce cholesterol levels

Eating frequently is associated with lower blood cholesterol concentrations, finds a study in this week’s BMJ, suggesting that we need to consider not just what we eat but how often we eat.

Over 14,000 men and women aged 45-75 years were asked – How many times a day do you eat including meals, snacks, biscuits with coffee breaks etc? – Participants were then classified into five categories of eating frequency and concentrations of blood fats (lipids) were measured.

Cholesterol concentrations were approximately 5% lower in men and women who ate six or more times a day compared with those who ate once or twice a day, despite higher intakes of energy, including fat, in people who reported eating more frequently. This association was still present after accounting for body mass index, physical activity, cigarette smoking, and dietary intake.

Although not large, this difference in cholesterol concentration is comparable to that achieved in studies involving alteration of intake of dietary fat or cholesterol. It is also associated with reductions in coronary heart disease ranging from 10% to 21%, say the authors.

If applied population-wide, such reductions might have a substantial impact, particularly in older people, who have higher rates of heart disease, they conclude.


Titan SM, Bingham S, Welch A et al. Frequency of eating and concentrations of serum cholesterol in the Norfolk population of the European prospective investigation into cancer (EPIC-Norfolk): cross sectional study. BMJ 2001 Dec 1;323(7324):1286.

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