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Ask Dr. Gourmet

How often should I be eating?

How important is how often one eats in terms of weight maintenance AND life expectancy?

You must have heard of the (study of the) three groups of mouse that were fed either a low-low-calorie diet regularly, an ad-lib, eat-all-you want diet and, finally, the third group could knock itself out on the granules every second day only - no food on alternate days. Outcome was that the starving/gorging mouse lived significantly longer and were healthier throughout.

Dogs are customarily fed once-a-day and it is thought to prolong their life.

On the other hand, there are many voices advocating a six-times-a-day, almost continuous feeding diet as the best for both staying lean and healthy.

Some recommend a day-long fast once a week. Some a week in a month. In short, it's almost like a religion, there's one there for everyone.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

There is no perfect answer to the how much and how often question.

Not sure that mice and dogs always are good predictors of human longevity when subjected to experiments on diet and lifestyle. There's no higher brain for them and there is for us. Those same mice will pretty easily ignore everything if given unlimited access to cocaine.

The best evidence is that eating fewer calories and being trim leads to the best health and longevity. One has to balance that with the practicality that food is good. It tastes good, it's fun, it's social, etc...

I am a believer in the three meals a day, controlled portions and less calorie dense food that tastes great with the occasional splurge on rich foods plan.

Three meals a day because this seems to work with the body. It is also pretty well defined in our social structure.

Smaller portions because that's an easy way to cut down. Not tiny, just 2 ounces of pasta instead of 4 or 6 or 8.

Cutting fat and sugar are two easy ways to reduce the density of calories in food. Not eliminate, control them.

You gotta go out and eat a great meal or have that cookie or what have you because that's part of life. You do not, however, need to have a couple of Kit Kat bars every day.

Thanks for writing.

Dr. Gourmet