Pizza is among the foods being targeted by health officialsÂ Credit: Alamy
Six meals a day could be better than three for those who weigh too much, new research suggests.
The study of obese individuals with pre-diabetes or type two diabetes found that those who ate âlittle and oftenâ had far better blood sugar control than those who enjoyed three large meals.
The research tracked participants who were put on a special diet for six months, with the same calorie intake, but varied frequency of eating.
Half were prescribed six meals a day, and half told to have three meals- with the groups swapping after three months.
Those on the six-meal plan saw a decrease in their glycated haemoglobin and glucose levels, indicating improved blood sugar control, the research found.
Among those with prediabetes and severely impaired glucose tolerance, eating six meals also reduced occurrence of high insulin levels, and delayed the time taken for blood glucose to peak, after sugars were consumed.Eating little and often may be the key to reducing the chance of diabetes Credit: PA
All 47 partipants in the study were given the same calorie count, which was designed to maintain their weight - in order to identify the impact of the regime on diabetes alone.
Separate studies have shown that extreme weight loss can reverse diabetes.
But all those in the study reported significantly reduced hunger levels and less desire to eat after following the six-meal plan compared to when they were eating three meals per day.
The new research, presented at this year's European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Annual Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal was by the University of Athens.
Lead author Dr Emilia Papakonstantinou said: "Our 24-week weight maintenance study showed that 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.
âThese 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 adults in the UK are classed as having pre-diabetes - putting them at risk of the serious condition, while two in three are overewight or obese.
A separate study published yesterday confirmed that type two diabetes can be reversed by going on a low calorie diet. The research found that consuming just 600 calories a day for eight weeks can reverse the condition caused by excess fat in the liver and pancreas.
The study confirmed a hypothesis that excess calories leads to excess fat in the liver - so that it responds poorly to insulin and produces too much glucose. Excess fat in the liver is passed on to the pancreas, causing the insulin producing cells to fail. Losing less than 1 gram of fat from the pancreas through diet can re-start the normal production of insulin, reversing Type 2 diabetes, the study found.
ÂHealth officials want to encourage healthier habitsÂ Credit: PA
Researchers said it was possible for diabetics to reverse the condtion for at least 10 years after its onset.
Under the diet, Â participants were put on a 600 calorie a day diet for eight weeks, then shifted to a diet with modest calorie restriction and increased daily physical activity.
Patients needed to lose an average of two stone to achieve reversal of diabetes, the study found.
But experts writing in the British Medical Journal said that other data suggested that less than 1 in 1,000 people achieved this.
The research confirms that type 2 diabetes is caused by excess calories, leading to extra fat in the liver. This is passed on to the pancreas, causing the insulin producing cells to fail, and triggering diabetes.
Researchers at Newcastle University found that losing less than one gram of fat from the pancreas can re-start insulin production, reversing type 2 diabetes.
Study leader author Professor Roy Taylor, said: "The good news for people with Type 2 diabetes is that our work shows that even if you have had the condition for 10 years, you are likely to be able to reverse it by moving that all important tiny amount of fat out of the pancreas.
"At present, this can only be done through substantial weight loss,â he added .
Prof Taylor said that suprisingly, most of the participants liked the strict diet.
"It was associated with no hunger and no tiredness in most people, but with rapidly increased wellbeing,â he said.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Diabetes UK Director of Research, said: âEvidence is building to suggest that Type 2 diabetes can be put into remission - a step forward that could be transformative for millions of people.
âBut we don't yet have all of the answers we need, such as whether remission is achievable for everyone, or for the long-term, or how best to monitor those who do achieve remission,â she said.