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Reasons to Look Closer at Meal Skipping


It happens to all of us. We get up late, rush off to a meeting, work through lunch, and, of course, meals get skipped. We may congratulate ourselves on calories saved, but many researchers are saying we should be cautious about making a habit of skipped meals.

The NY Times says some scientific data on skipping meals indicates it could affect health negatively. Skipping a meal during the day and eating one large meal in the evening can cause potentially risky metabolic changes. In one study the meal skippers had elevated fasting glucose levels, and a delayed insulin response. If those conditions persisted long term they could lead to diabetes.

On the other hand, skipping meals as part of a controlled eating plan that cuts calories, could help improve health. The danger comes up if we skip meals in the day and then overeat in the evening. And of course, that is exactly what most of us tend to do. Quick breakfasts and lunch on the run often lead to sumptuous dinners, where we tend to feel justified in splurging since we have missed so many calories during the day.

Inflammation also needs to be considered. Researchers tell us periods of fasting appear to assist damage repair in our cells. Valter Longo,Ph.D., University of Southern California, says some inflammation lowering health boosts could show up by just skipping one meal. Longo does caution us that we can risk nutrient shortages leading to fatigue and foggy thinking by skipping meals. He advises consulting with a registered dietitian to make sure you are getting enough protein, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids in the process.

Skipping meals could also burn more fat during exercise. A British Journal of Nutrition study found morning exercisers burned 20 percent more fat during their workouts when they sweated on an empty stomach. But they also advised eating a nutritious filling dinner the night before. They also warned regular demands, along with the low blood sugar that results following a skipped meal, could result in just completely skipping the exercise.

As always when we look at research such as this, it is important to keep individual age, weight, and health conditions in mind.

We are all different and what works for one could border on disaster for someone else. I’m in the column where a missed meal already seems like a disaster. Then asking me to hop on a treadmill could prompt me to explain why that was not going to happen. Regular meals versus hit and miss meal schedules definitely becomes an individual matter.

As always, checking with your physician before skipping meals and assessing how this fits in your overall health program is essential.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Michael Coté

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