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 5 categories of eating frequency, and their concentrations of blood fats were measured.
Cholesterol concentrations were approximately 5% lower in men and women who ate 6 or more times a day, compared with those who ate once or twice a day.
This was despite higher intakes of energy, including fat, in people who reported eating more frequently.
|14,000 people were studied.
| British Medical Journal |
The 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 those 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.