July 24, 2008 It is obvious to most people that our health is affected by what we eat; now, however, scientists have shown that it is also a matter of how often we eat. People who eat at irregular times run a greater risk of developing insulin resistance and what is known as metabolic syndrome, according to a study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet.
Metabolic syndrome is a condition whereby multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes accumulate in one and the same individual. The chances of developing the components of the syndrome – abdominal obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and glucose intolerance – are affected by several lifestyle factors, of which diet is thought to be one of the most important.
Scientists at Karolinska Institutet have now, for the first time, showed that the frequency of meals, regardless of their content, affects the chances of developing metabolic syndrome. The study, which was based on a survey and medical examination of over four thousand 60-year old men and women, shows that irregular eating is associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome.
The participants that said that they rarely ate a regular breakfast, lunch and dinner had, on average, a larger waist size and more blood lipid disorders than people who ate more regularly. They also tended to exhibit more signs of insulin resistance, which is thought to be an underlying cause of metabolic syndrome. The scientists believe that the results can help to improve dietary advice regarding the prevention or treatment of metabolic syndrome.
"Dietary advice is usually all about what kind of food we should eat," says Professor Mai-Lis Hellénius, who led the study. "But this study shows that the way in which we eat can also be an important health factor."
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- Sierra-Johnson et al. Eating Meals Irregularly: A Novel Environmental Risk Factor for the Metabolic Syndrome. Obesity, 2008; 16 (6): 1302 DOI: 10.1038/oby.2008.203
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