Yesterday we reported on how one method recommended in the past for better weight control is being challenged by some experts who now say “grazing”, or eating small healthy snacks between meals, may lead to weight gain by interfering with the body’s metabolism and its ability to burn fat.
The experts believe people should go back to three healthy meals a day, including fruit and vegetables, and cut out snacks in between those meals.
Snacking also means that organs such as the liver and pancreas are under greater stress, as blood sugar and fat levels stay higher throughout the day.This also increases stress on blood vessels and, perhaps, the heart, as well raising the risk of diabetes. Women with PCOS are already at increased risk of both heart disease and diabetes.
Many people believe that if they don’t eat a little and often they run the risk of becoming hypoglycemic – when blood sugar levels become low, causing mood swings, lightheadedness and feeling shaky.
The theory is that eating six small meals a day keeps blood sugar levels stable. But unless you suffer from diabetes, your body is very good at regulating blood sugar and there’s no need to eat constantly.
“We can actually go a long time without eating,” says dietician Lyndel Costain. “Assuming you’ve had a reasonable meal, you can go four or five hours without eating. And if you start to feel hungry, it will be because most of your food has been digested and your internal appetite regulators are sending messages for more food.
“But your blood sugar won’t go down so low that you have hypoglycemia, unless you have a genuine problem with your blood sugar.”
Indeed, rather than stabilising blood sugar levels, snacking on sugary, high-carbohydrate foods is more likely to make those levels fluctuate wildly – which can make you feel more, rather than less, hungry.
If you eat cake or biscuits, the high sugar content causes you to release too much insulin and your blood sugar ends up lower than it was before you ate, as your body tries to compensate for the sudden sugar intake.